BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The besieged Gaza Strip is currently receiving less than half of the electricity it needs, Gaza power authority deputy chief Thafer Melhem said on Wednesday.
In an interview with the official channel Palestine TV, Melhem said that the blockaded enclave was only provided with 200 megawatts of electricity, only 45 percent of the 450 megawatts needed to fully supply power to Gaza.
Melhem said that the severe electricity shortage was not only due to fuel shortages, but also to ongoing tensions with Israeli authorities on a number of issues, notably efforts to improve Gaza’s only power plant.
The official added that expansion of power lines coming from both Israel and Egypt could help alleviate the issue, as well as using natural gas instead of diesel to produce electricity.
Meanwhile, the Islamic and National Forces organized a march to denounce the electricity crisis on Wednesday in the southern Gaza Strip.
Protesters called on all relevant authorities to find a permanent solution to the protracted issue, which has seriously affected Palestinians suffering under the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade.
Gaza residents have struggled under ever-growing daily power cuts during the cold winter months.In a statement released Saturday
, Gaza’s electricity company said that most districts of the small Palestinian territory were only receiving power for three-hour intervals in between 12-hour power cuts, due to severe fuel shortages.
The statement added that out of the 600 megawatts of power needed in the enclave, less than 150 megawatts were available.
While the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip on Sunday
raised hopes for some relief from the power shortages, the deepening electricity crisis has sparked a number of protests in recent days.
The power cuts create dangerous environments for Palestinians attempting to keep warm in the winter or needing light during the night, with a number of fires breaking out since the beginning of the year.
Gaza’s usual electricity schedule alternates eight hours of power followed by eight hours without.
Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza's sole power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy needs.
The power plant has not run at full capacity in years, with Israel's crippling blockade severely limiting fuel imports into the coastal enclave.
The enclave's severe electricity shortages over the years have exacerbated the already dire living conditions in the small Palestinian territory.
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.
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.