Political clash leaves Gaza without electricity (AFP) AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) By Adel Zaanoun 03/26/12)
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A political fight between Egypt, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority
is to blame for fuel shortages that have led to a major electricity
crisis in Gaza, sources told AFP on Monday.
Gaza has long suffered power outages, but the problem has spiralled
in recent months, with hospitals warning they face disaster and
residents forced to endure rolling blackouts lasting up to 18 hours a
At the root of the problem, according to officials and sources on all
sides, is a political tug-of-war involving Gaza´s Hamas rulers, the
Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, and the Egyptian authorities.
But Gaza health officials have warned that the situation was
spiralling out of control and that hospitals in the territory were
only days away from running out of fuel.
On Sunday, Gaza´s sole power plant shut down again for lack of fuel
after using up some 450,000 litres of diesel delivered on Friday
through the Kerem Shalom crossing on Gaza´s border with Israel.
"Unfortunately all the import routes for fuel have been cut, whether
we´re talking about the tunnels, the official crossings or from
Ramallah," said Ahmad Abu al-Amrin, an official at Gaza´s energy
"The plant stopped functioning for the first time on February 14, but
the fuel shortage began on December 25, 2011, because of security
measures taken inside Egypt along the borders, which blocked the
provision of fuel to the Rafah region."
He said the Gaza government had paid Egypt $2 million (1.5 million
euros) for fuel, none of which had yet been delivered.
"It was initially agreed with Egypt that the fuel would be
transported via the Rafah crossing (on the Gaza-Egypt border), but
the Egyptians changed their minds and required that it go through
Kerem Shalom instead," he said.
But the fuel which was delivered through Kerem Shalom on Friday was
not from Egypt, but Israeli diesel which was paid for by the
"There is a political problem with certain parties in Egypt, in
coordination with the government in Ramallah, which is not interested
in resolving the fuel crisis in the Gaza Strip," Abu al-Amrin said.
In Ramallah, officials pointed the finger at Hamas for not sending
anyone to join them at a meeting with Egyptian officials, which is
currently under way in Cairo.
"A meeting was scheduled between a government delegation and Hamas
delegation in Cairo, but Hamas did not send its representatives,"
Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghassan Khatib told AFP.
A Palestinian source in the West Bank said Egypt and Hamas also
disagreed over both the cost of the fuel and how it should be
"Hamas wants to import fuel at the price paid by Egyptians in Egypt,"
the source told AFP on condition of anonymity. Egypt, he said, had
refused to extend its domestic fuel subsidies to sales outside its
Cairo has also insisted on delivering the fuel via Kerem Shalom,
citing its agreements with Israel, he said, while Hamas wants the
fuel through the Rafah crossing.
Meanwhile in Gaza, Dr Ashraf Qadara, a spokesman for the Hamas-run
health ministry, said the situation was becoming ever more critical.
"We are living in a situation of worry and fear for hundreds of
patients," he told AFP.
Hospitals were experiencing electrical interruptions of "more than 12
hours a day" and they were not receiving the necessary fuel to
operate backup generators, he said.
"The health services are now facing a countdown to a halt in its
operations for patients in Gaza," he warned. "The situation is a
Hospitals across the territory only had less than a fifth of their
strategic reserves left, "which is enough for three days at the
most," he said.
Egyptian officials were largely silent on the dispute, but one source
told AFP that Cairo intended to comply with the deal to supply fuel
He pointed out, however, that Egypt had suffered fuel shortages
itself in recent days. (Copyright © 2012 Agence France Presse.
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