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Gaza's only power station shuts down

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The only functioning power plant in the Palestinian territory is out of action after running out of fuel. The local electricity company blamed a "dispute" between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for the outage, reported Deutsche Welle (Germany).

Gaza residents on Sunday had their electricity cut from eight hours a day to just six, after the only power station in the Gaza Strip stopped operating.

The local energy authority said it had no option but to shut the plant down due to unpaid bills and taxes in a row between the Islamic movement Hamas, which seized the enclave in 2007 from the Palestinian Authority government, which controls the West Bank.
The two factions have been involved in a bitter dispute over tax bills on fuel imports amid a long-running border blockade by Israel and Egypt that has worsened power shortages.
The head of the energy provider Samir Metir said that all the plant's fuel, purchased in January with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.

The two countries stepped in earlier this year after the coastal Palestinian territory saw its worst power shortage in years, when electricity was cut to just three hours during a cold winter.
Metir said it was not clear when the Palestinian territory would receive more power.
The latest closure means Gaza's roughly 2 million residents will have to rely on electricity supplied by Israel and Egypt.

According to international groups, 80 per cent of the Gaza population lives on humanitarian aid, and more than half is impoverished.
More than two-thirds of households don't pay their electricity bills, in part because they can't afford it, according to the "Times of Israel."

The Maan news agency cited a Palestinian government spokesman as accusing Hamas of collecting millions of shekels from Gaza residents for electricity without paying for it.
The Gaza Health Ministry warned that there could be serious repercussions on health services due to the power outage. There are also fears that drinking water supplies will be affected.

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In a statement issued on Thursday, the Palestinian Ministry of Health announced that the fuel at its disposal to run generators at hospitals and other medical facilities will deplete in about one week. There is a tangible risk of operating theatres and hospital departments having to close, endangering the lives of patients, reported Palestine News Network.

Fikr Shalltoot, Director of Programmes for MAP in Gaza warned: “The lack of fuel at Gaza hospitals is as dangerous as the lack of life-saving drug items. The absence of either one will cause the death of seriously ill patients.”

“Most at risk are the lives of seriously ill patients in intensive care, and in neonatal and kidney dialysis units which lack the fuel to keep their ventilators and hemodialysis equipment running.”

MAP, a British humanitarian and development organisation, calls on the UK government and the international community to urgently intervene to avert the worsening crisis. In the immediate and short term, adequate emergency funding for fuel must be delivered to Gaza to sustain Gaza’s already overstretched health services.

Chronic fuel shortages mean that the only power plant in Gaza is only able to operate at or below half capacity. Hospitals therefore usually receive between eight to 12 hours of mains electricity per day.

Electricity outside of these hours must be provided by generators, fuel for which is dangerously close to depletion. The constant fluctuations in power supply have furthermore resulted in damage to sensitive medical equipment such as X-rays, neonatal incubators and cardiac monitors.

The root causes of the crisis are the decade of closure and blockade imposed by Israel, and the ongoing separation of the West Bank and Gaza. The international community must prioritise efforts to resolve these issues, and the 50-year occupation of which they are components, in order to resolve the long-term humanitarian crisis affecting Gaza.

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Tags: gaza, hamas
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