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PA, Egypt sign gas deal to end Gaza crisis

March 27, 2012 3:46 P.M. (Updated: April 1, 2012 9:54 A.M.)
CAIRO (Ma'an) -- The Palestine Electricity Company on Tuesday announced a deal with Egypt to provide gas to the Gaza Strip.

Palestine Electricity Company director in Gaza Walid Saad Sayil signed the agreement with the Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation in Cairo on behalf of the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority.

Sayil told reporters that Egyptian technicians have been instructed to conduct geographical surveys to find the best route for a network of pipelines to transport gas from Sheikh Zweid to the Rafah crossing on Gaza's border.

Meanwhile, technicians in Gaza will prepare to install a 30-kilometer pipeline from Rafah to the power plant in Gaza City, he said.

Sayil send the new agreement will increase the plant's capacity from 40 to 180 Megawatts. The power station currently runs on diesel but generators will be converted to use gas, he added.

The sole power plant in Gaza has shut down four times since February due to chronic fuel shortages, causing rolling power outages of up to 18 hours a day.

Ambulances and firetrucks have been taken out of service and bakeries were forced to reduce their hours as petrol pumps ran dry across Gaza.

The latest crisis began after Egypt cracked down on tunnels smuggling fuel into Gaza. Egypt, which is also experiencing fuel shortages, urged Hamas to import fuel across its border with Israel.

Hamas refused, citing concerns that Israel would then have the power to block supplies. Meanwhile, Cairo was reluctant to transfer fuel through the Rafah crossing over fears it would exempt Israel from its responsibilities as an occupying power.
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