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Gaza hit by blackouts in latest energy crisis

March 29, 2016 9:43 A.M. (Updated: March 30, 2016 10:27 A.M.)
The Gaza Strip's sole power plant has not run at full capacity in years. (AFP/File)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) -- The Gaza Strip was left almost entirely without power Tuesday due to maintenance work on power lines from both Israel and Egypt and ongoing tax disputes on fuel for the enclave’s near-defunct power station.

Muhammad Thabit, a spokesman for Gaza’s electricity company, said that starting at 6 a.m., all lines supplying power from Egypt as well as two lines from Israel were disconnected, cutting off residents of southern Gaza and Gaza City from electricity.

Thabit said he was unaware how long the cuts were expected to last.

Gaza’s sole power station meanwhile was operating at just half its capacity for the third consecutive day due to the shutdown of one of two turbines in the station, Thabit added.

Thabit told Ma’an the shutdown came after a dispute between Gaza’s electricity company and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority Ministry of Finance over taxes on fuel used by the station.

Thabit said that starting this year, the PA ministry had cut its subsidies for Gaza’s fuel costs by nearly 50 percent.

While Gaza's governing body Hamas is obligated to collect electricity bills from residents of the besieged enclave and send the funds to the PA, financial disputes have been ongoing since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in 2007.

While the PA criticizes Hamas for failing to foot the bill, Hamas says Gaza’s residents are unable to pay bills due to high rates of unemployment and the crippling siege imposed by Israel and upheld by Egypt, Thabit said.

Hamas’ inability to cover these costs forced the power station to close for more than a month last year and led to condemnation of the PA by many of Gaza's residents.

The power plant -- alongside Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids -- fail to cover the territory's energy needs and has suffered from chronic shortages due to the near-decade long blockade.

War has also taken its toll, and during Israel's 50-day offensive on Gaza in 2014, the power plant was targeted, completely knocking it out of commission.
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