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Hamas: Power outage across Gaza as fuel runs out

Nov. 1, 2013 3:11 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 2, 2013 8:59 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (AFP) -- A shortage of fuel halted the production of electricity across the Gaza Strip on Friday, said the energy authority of the Islamist movement Hamas.

"We have completely stopped the operation of (Gaza's sole) power plant this morning at 6 a.m. because we don't have a single liter of fuel," Fathi el-Sheikh Khalil, the authority's deputy chairman, told AFP.

An AFP correspondent in the Gaza Strip said the electricity supply had been cut off across most of the territory.

Khalil blamed the power outage on Egypt's destruction of tunnels used for bringing fuel to Gaza and accused the Palestinian Authority of charging Hamas too much for its fuel.

"Less than 50 percent of the needs of the Gaza Strip are currently covered by electricity from Israel (and) we can no longer get Egyptian fuel due to the destruction of tunnels from Egypt," he said.

"We tried to get fuel from Israel via the Palestinian Authority, but it has imposed prohibitive taxes."

The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the electricity the territory of 1.75 million people needs.

"The plant will remain shut until fuel supplies resume from Egypt through the tunnels or the Rafah border crossing, or from Israel if the Palestinian Authority agrees not to impose the heavy taxes," said Khalil.

In September, the Gaza energy authority warned of an impending shortage of fuel and called on Egypt to resume deliveries to the Strip.

Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since the Egyptian army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July and restricted goods going into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, as well as destroying hundreds of the tunnels running underneath the border town.

The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that in October, less than five percent of the goods that had been going through Rafah in June came through the crossing.

"Less than 10 truckloads of goods may have entered Gaza through the tunnels per day between 20-26 October, compared to 15 truckloads which entered during the previous week, and 30-40 truckloads during September," it said, citing local sources.

"This amount represents less that five percent of the volume of goods that entered before June 2013."

Officials in Gaza estimate that at least 80 percent of the tunnels have been destroyed since July.

OCHA said although fresh Palestinian purchases of Israeli fuel partially compensated for the shortage, fuel was more expensive than the Egyptian supplies and therefore "unaffordable" for many Palestinians in Gaza and service providers.
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