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Gaza to return to normal power schedule following delivery of Qatari aid

Jan. 16, 2017 4:35 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 17, 2017 10:25 A.M.)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- The first installment of a $12-million donation from the Qatari government landed in a Gaza account on Monday, after Qatar pledged to help cover the cost of fuel for the besieged coastal enclave, which has been suffering from a debilitating electricity crisis.

It was announced Sunday that Qatar would fund the small Palestinian territory with three payments of $4 million over the course of three months, the first of which arrived Monday, according to the Gaza Power Authority.

Due to Monday’s donation, Gaza’s electricity company will be able to turn on a third generator, and the enclave will return to its normal schedule of having electricity for eight-hour intervals punctuated by eight-hour power cuts.

For more than a week, the Gaza Strip has had to cope with 12-hour-long blackouts in between three hours of electricity.

According to the Deputy Chief of the Gaza Power Authority Thafer Melhem, Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani had directed officials to take immediate steps to resolve the electricity crisis and lessen the suffering of people in Gaza Strip after a meeting with senior Hamas figure Ismail Haniyeh in Doha on Sunday.

When the Qatari fund was announced, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah also mentioned that Turkey had confirmed that it would provide 15 tons of fuel to the Gaza Strip, with an official agreement to be signed in coming days.

Protests erupted after the power authority announced that most districts of the besieged territory would only receive three hours of electricity every 12 hours. Hamas’ security forces were accused of assaulting journalists and restricting the freedom of expression of demonstrators over the past week, with rights groups and United Nations harshly criticizing Hamas for possible human rights violations.

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.

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.
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