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As power crisis deepens, PA cuts electricity payments to Gaza

April 27, 2017 6:00 P.M. (Updated: May 1, 2017 5:32 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority (PA) reportedly notified authorities on Thursday that it would stop paying for the electricity that Israel provides the besieged Gaza Strip, as the Fatah-ruled PA and Hamas, the de facto leading party in Gaza, have continued feuding amid a dire electricity crisis in the coastal enclave.

According to Israeli media outlet Haaretz, the PA informed Yoav Mordechai, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, that the Ramallah-based government would immediately stop paying for Israeli electricity provided to the Gaza Strip.

PA spokesperson Yousif al-Mahmoud said earlier in the month that the PA was committed to covering the costs of Gaza’s electricity originating from Israel and Egypt. The PA has paid 40 million shekels ($10,931,732) a month for Israeli electricity -- subtracted from taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA -- and seven million shekels ($1,913,053) for Egyptian, he said.

The coordinator’s bureau stated that Israel provides the besieged territory with 125 megawatts of power, amounting to 30 percent of the overall electricity needs of the Gaza Strip, according to Haaretz.

Critics have said the move represents an attempt by the PA to exert pressure on the Hamas government to release control of the small Palestinian territory, forcing the government to rely almost fully on international assistance and private funds to obtain electricity for Gaza's residents.

Last week, Gaza’s power authority shut down the territory’s sole power plant after fuel funded by Qatar and Turkey dried up. The authority has said that it cannot afford to pay the PA for fuel owing to the PA-imposed taxes on electricity provided to Gaza.

The plant shutdown has reduced power supply to residents to just six hours of electricity followed by a 12-hour blackouts, compared to the typical schedule of eight consecutive hours of electricity followed by eight without. Meanwhile, electricity lines from Egypt, which power the southern Gaza Strip, have continued to falter, as all electricity lines from Egypt to the Gaza Strip broke down on Monday.

In a statement at the start of January, the authority noted that the taxes on fuel were “the biggest obstacle” preventing the electricity station in Gaza to run at full capacity, saying that the added costs prohibits the authority from purchasing sufficient quantities of fuel.

Al-Mahmoud, meanwhile noted last week that over the last three months the power authority was supplied with Qatari-funded fuel -- the last shipment of which has already run out. “Hamas’ electricity company,” he said, has collected 100 million shekels ($27,329,329) worth of electricity fees from residents of Gaza while not paying anything to receive the electricity.

Even at full capacity, Egyptian and Israeli electricity grids, together with Gaza's sole power plant, fail to cover the Gaza Strip’s energy need.

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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