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Dozens gather in Gaza City to protest electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip

May 8, 2016 5:33 P.M. (Updated: May 9, 2016 10:16 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma’an) – Dozens of residents of the Gaza Strip rallied in Gaza City on Sunday to protest the ongoing electricity crisis and dire living conditions in the besieged coastal enclave.

The protesters gathered at the Unknown Soldier Square in the center of the city holding posters denouncing the ongoing tax dispute between Gaza's de facto ruling party Hamas and the Fatah-lead Palestinian Authority (PA), urging the rivals to take serious steps towards restoring national unity.

The protest was organized to show solidarity with the Abu Hindi family, after their three small children died in house fire Friday caused by candles the family used to light their apartment during a regular power cut.

Speaking at a news conference during the protest, a senior official of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine blamed the Palestinian national consensus government, the Palestinian Energy Authority, and Gaza's electricity company for the tragedy that befell the Abu Hindi family.

He added that Gaza's electrical grids should be temporarily connected to Israeli line 161 until a pipeline is built to provide gas for Gaza’s power plant instead of diesel.

During the funeral Saturday for the three siblings -- three-year-old Yusra, two-year-old Rahaf, and two-month-old Nasser -- a senior Hamas official blamed Israel and the PA for the fire.

Palestinian Health Minister Jawad Awwad said on Sunday that one of the surviving Abu Hindi children, eight-year-old Muhannad, would be taken to an Israeli hospital to treat his serious burns at the ministry’s expense.

“Who has been taking $70 million dollars a month in taxes from Gaza? Who has been collecting fuel taxes? Who refused to enlarge the power supply from Egypt to the Gaza Strip and refused to build a pipeline to provide Gaza’s power station with gas to increase its capacity?” Hamas official Ismail Haniyeh said at the funeral, listing a set of policy decisions imposed by the the PA.

An ongoing dispute falls between Gaza’s electricity company and the West Bank-based PA Ministry of Finance over taxes on fuel used by the blockaded territory's only power station. The crisis previously sparked protests in April.

Locals told Ma’an on Saturday that for the past month, due to an unresolved issue with Egyptian power lines, all Gaza districts have only been provided power at six-hour intervals followed by 12-hour power cuts, with the exception of a few days when electricity grids were eight hours on, eight hours off, as is usual for the small Palestinian territory.

The Gaza Strip was left almost entirely without power during a number of days in April due to maintenance work on power lines from both Israel and Egypt, as well as the ongoing tax disputes.

Gaza's power plant has not run at full capacity in years, with Israel's crippling blockade severely limiting fuel imports into the coastal enclave.

War has also had taken its toll, as Israeli forces targeted the power plant during a brutal offensive on the Gaza Strip in 2014, completely knocking it out of commission. A fresh round of Israeli airstrikes targeted the Gaza's southern region for four consecutive days this week, further putting pressure on the enclave’s vulnerable population.

The UN has warned that the Gaza Strip would become uninhabitable for residents by 2020, pointing to the devastation of war and nearly a decade of Israel's blockade.

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