Dark Days in Gaza: Residents Worried About Winter

Not everyone can afford buying a generator for their home or office and paying for the gas it runs on. They have to save money.

The sound of generators on the sidewalks of Gaza on the weekend made it hard for pedestrians to hear one another. Even though only a few of the well-kept stores on Omar el-Mukhtar Street, one bank and two carpentries, used generators, the noise was still great. The power outage meant most stores were dark, but it did not matter much anyway: There were no shoppers on the street.

Traffic was also sparse, much less than what one might expect on a Saturday that is followed by a national holiday: 20 years since Yasser Arafat's declaration of Palestinian independence.

Many of Gaza's neighborhoods experienced power cuts at different times of day. In the neighborhood surrounding the square named after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, where the Fatah politician's empty house still stands, the electricity was interrupted six times over the course of 24 hours. Power went out for two, four and then six hours. After a while people stopped counting.

In fact, this neighborhood is one of the luckier ones - it is connected to both the Israeli and Palestinian electricity grids. The power outages in those neighborhoods that are not connected to the Israeli grid last between eight to 12 hours. Some areas have no running water: The Sheikh Radwan refugee camp has had no running water for two days.

Outages have also been reported in Rafah, on the border with Egypt, even though the city is connected to the Egyptian grid across the border: The Gazan electricity company is trying to distribute the power it has purchased from Egypt and Israel evenly among the Palestinians.

Offices, medical practices, private residences: All are darkened by power outages that may occur at any time of day. Every phone call starts with the question of whether the person on the other end of the line has electricity. Whether they managed to bathe the kids before the hot water ran out. Whether the washing machine was working when the outage began.

Refrigerators are particularly prone to malfunction and breakdown because of the constant outages. Also, the cellular phone system weakens and sometimes crashes. Not everyone can afford buying a generator for their home or office and paying for the gas it runs on. They have to save money.

The shortage in cooking gas and diesel is starting to worry many. One mother in Gaza City had to send her child to Rafah, where the shortage is not yet felt, to buy cooking gas. Meanwhile, it is till relatively warm for November and people are putting off thinking about what will happen if Israel continues to block the transfer of cooking gas or diesel used for heating into the Gaza Strip when the winter arrives.