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UN calls for 'urgent action' to address Gaza power crisis

Nov. 1, 2013 9:31 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 3, 2013 3:12 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley expressed concern on Friday at the closure of the Gaza Power Plant earlier in the day.

Rawley said that the plant's shut down will "impact all essential services, including hospitals, clinics, sewage and water pumping stations."

"It will also mean that Gaza's 1.7 million people will experience power outages of up to 16 hours per day," he added.

Rawley noted that even before the shut down the Gaza Strip was "running on less than half of the electricity that it needs."

Although the Gaza Strip is supplied electricity through connections to Egypt and Israel, the Gaza plant is responsible for providing around 30 percent of the energy needs of the Gaza Strip.

"For the benefit of Gaza's civilian population it is essential that a way be found to allow the power plant to resume its operations and that the broader chronic energy crisis be addressed," Rawley added.

On Friday, Gaza energy authorities announced that the plant had been shut down because they did not have "a single liter of fuel" with which to run it.

The energy authority's deputy chairman, Fathi el-Sheikh Khalil, said that Egypt's destruction of tunnels used to smuggle fuel to Gaza had created the crisis, and that the Palestinian Authority had imposed "prohibitive taxes," preventing Gaza from acquiring the necessary fuel.

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by the State of Israel since 2007. The blockade was imposed following the victory of Hamas in the 2006 Palestinian elections and the subsequent 2007 clashes between Fatah and Hamas, which left Hamas in control of the Strip and Fatah in control of the West Bank.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans. These have been particularly severe given frequently Israeli military assaults, particularly in 2008-9 and 2011, which killed around 1,400 and 170 Gazans respectively and led to major infrastructural damage.
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