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Hamas, Fatah blame each other for worsening crisis in Gaza

Jan. 13, 2017 9:28 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 17, 2017 2:14 P.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) – Following Duhr (afternoon) prayers on Friday, Hamas organized a march in the Jabaliya refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip to protest the Palestinian Authority (PA), calling the power crisis a “conspiracy to cut electricity,” and a concerted move to “tighten the siege” on the coastal enclave, as rivals Hamas and Fatah have continued to point blame at one another for the worsening situation in Gaza.

The march was organized amid a deepening electricity crisis in the besieged enclave, leaving many of Gaza’s some 2 million residents with only three hours of electricity in between 12-hour power cuts.

The electricity crisis has caused protests to erupt over the past two days, as Hamas’ security forces have been accused of assaulting journalists and restricting the freedom of expression of demonstrators.

During the Hamas-led march on Friday, protesters set fire to photos of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and PA Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Earlier on Friday, the Hamas movement released a statement holding the Fatah-dominated PA and Abbas responsible for the dire electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip. Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum claimed that the ongoing crisis was “intentional” and aimed “to close the siege on Gaza and create chaos.”

Hamas leader, Musheer al-Masri said that the Friday march was launched to highlight the PA’s betrayal of the Palestinian resistance and of the Palestinians in Gaza, reiterating the movement’s position that Abbas and Hamdallah were responsible for the suffering in Gaza, referring both to the decade-long Israeli-imposed siege and the ongoing electricity crisis.

“The PA charges Gaza $120 million of taxes, in which $70 million is paid to its employees, while the rest of the $50 million goes straight into the PA’s pocket,” al-Masri said during the march.

Al-Masri called upon all Arabs, Muslims, and Palestinians to uphold their responsibilities to the Gaza Strip, underscoring that the Hamas movement would not accept conditions resting on the recognition of Israel as a state, returning Gaza to the PA, or abandoning the resistance to end the Israeli blockade on the small Palestinian territory.

Al-Masri added that the PA should continue its responsibilities towards the Gaza Strip and manage the deepening electricity shortages.

Meanwhile, the head of Fatah’s media department, Muner al-Jaghoub, responded to Hamas’ blaming of the crisis on Fatah, saying that Hamas would not be successful in politicizing its reaction to the electricity crisis, and it would “not be able to escape out of the current crisis the movement has caused.”

Al-Jaghoub added that the Palestinian people “are fed up” with Hamas’ actions.

“The Palestinian people in Gaza have been patient for a very long time with Hamas’ actions, hoping that the movement would stand up for its people” al-Jaghoub said. “But Palestinians are fed up with Hamas and are now demanding freedom and dignity after the many crises they have lived through during Hamas’ rule.”

Responding to Hamas officials and supporters burning photos of Abbas and Hamdallah, al-Jaghoub called the act “funny to watch,” adding that perhaps the group thinks this move can “light up thousands of homes across Gaza.”

He also highlighted that the Palestinians protesting over the previous days have been “normal citizens” who are not strongly affiliated with any political party, and are instead simply demanding a serious solution to Gaza’s critical electricity shortage.

PA spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud also released a statement on Friday condemning what he referred to as Hamas’ “irresponsible behavior,” and adding that it was an “odd reaction” to the situation.

Al-Mahmoud said that Hamas’ accusations “lacked credibility,” and exposed the movements “deflection of responsibility” amid the crisis.

Reiterating al-Jaghoub’s remarks, al-Mahmoud said that the Palestinians in Gaza have been “living in patience,” amid a devastating Israeli siege coupled with “Hamas’ grip.” Hamas would only start supporting and caring about the Palestinians in Gaza when it “gets out of the way of the Palestinian government, so that it can conduct its responsibilities to the Palestinians in Gaza,” he added.

The “main reason behind the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza,” al-Mahmoud continued, “is the Israeli occupation which Palestinian political parties take advantage of in order to control the Gaza Strip, instead of responding to the efforts of ending the conflict and reuniting the Palestinian people under the leadership of Abbas.”

Despite these statements, according to a poll released last month by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research (PSR), at least 64 percent of Palestinians support the resignation of Abbas. In the Gaza Strip, the number of respondents who called for Abbas’ resignation soared to 72 percent.

Al-Mahmoud also stressed that the PA was “conducting efforts” to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, and has continued to spend “more than a billion dollars on energy supplies for Gaza annually,” adding that Hamas uses the funds for its own interests, while the Palestinian people “drown in crisis,” mirroring the same accusation Hamas threw at the Fatah movement.

Protests erupted in the besieged Gaza Strip on Wednesday, following an announcement by Gaza’s power authority that most districts of the besieged territory would only receive three-hour intervals of electricity, punctuated by 12-hour power blackouts.

Protesters have 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.

While the entry of fuel into the Gaza Strip on Sunday raised hopes for some relief from the power shortages, the frequent 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.

Meanwhile, Fatah and Hamas have been embroiled in conflict since Hamas' election victory in 2006 elections in the Gaza Strip, which erupted into a violent conflict between the two movements as both attempted to consolidate control over the territory.

Despite numerous attempts at reconciling the groups, Palestinian leadership has repeatedly failed to follow through on promises of reconciliation and holding of long-overdue elections, as both movements have frequently blamed each other for numerous political failures.

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