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In Photos:
In photos: Gaza Strip plunged into darkness as fuel runs out

Nov. 16, 2013 6:39 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 18, 2013 1:01 P.M.)

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for 1.7 million residents.

The lack of diesel fuel is a result of the tightening of a 7-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

Until July of this year, tunnels connecting Gaza to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Egyptian Maj. Gen. Ahmad Ibrahim said in October that nearly 800 tunnels had been destroyed since the beginning of the year at that time, while Rafah officials estimated in September that these operations had demolished 95% of previously existing tunnels.

Gaza Strip energy officials blame Egypt for destroying these tunnels while maintaining the larger economic blockade, along with Israel. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford to import.

(MaanImages/Ezz Al Zanoon)

Electricity, already a scarce resource in the Gaza Strip, has been severely rationed since the beginning of the month, when the Gaza Strip's main power plant was forced to shut down due to lack of fuel. The power plant supplies around 30 percent of the besieged strip's power, while the rest comes through Israel and Egypt at inflated prices.

The lack of electricity has forced water stations to stop pumping at times, and in some neighborhoods residents only receive two hours of water a day. Families stay up all night waiting for these two hours to ensure they have enough water for their daily needs.

The lack of power also means that life ceases at night, as the lack of electricity forces life to continue by candlelight. Even though many Gaza homes, businesses, and public institutions have generators to provide power for when the electricity cuts out, the lack of fuel means these can no longer be used by most.

A major waste water treatment plant in al-Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City failed on Wednesday, leading sewage to flood the streets of the neighborhood and blocking passage for residents through the city's darkened alleyways.

On Nov. 1, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator James Rawley warned of the impending crisis in the Gaza Strip, calling for "urgent action."

"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," he said.

Despite this, no relief is in sight for Gaza residents.

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