Egypt Supplies Diesel Fuel to Gaza to Keep Power Plant Running

Israel reduces power to Gaza after Palestinian Authority refuses to pay Hamas' electricity bills

Fuel tankers enter Gaza from Egypt through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

The Israel Electric Corporation reduced its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip once again on Thursday morning. This is expected to be the final reduction in a series of cuts in electricity supplies over this past week.

As of Thursday morning, Israel is supplying the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip with 80 megawatts of power, out of the approximately 123 megawatts it previously supplied, says the electricity authority in Gaza.  This means Gaza residents receive electricity for about two and a half to three hours at a stretch, followed by 12 to 16 hours of a blackout.

After the arrival of the diesel fuel deliveries from Egypt, the power station that had been shut down for the past two months has been restarted and it is supplying 45 megawatts of electricity. The electric company in Gaza will begin making this additional power available to resident s either on Thursday or Friday, and they will begin receiving electricity for five or six hours a day – at most, said an official of the Gaza electric company.

Egypt supplied 1.1 million liters of diesel fuel to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to help power the local power plant in Gaza. The fuel from Egypt will enable the electricity company in Gaza to generate electricity in the evening, but not at full production, said sources in the electric company.  A number of technical problems in Gaza have also disrupted the normal production of electricity, said the sources.

Officials from the Gaza power company said operating the power plant at full capacity requires about 600,000 liters of diesel fuel a day, so the Egyptian supplies are enough for only two days of full electricity generation. But the power plant is expected to run at only 50 percent of its capacity so the diesel fuel should last for four days. If the problem is not solved by then it is expected the Egyptians will supply more fuel. The fuel was delivered from Egypt in tanker trucks.

"In any case, it will increase the supply of electricity for only a few hours [a day]. Maybe we will reach six hours in the best case," a senior official in the Gaza electric company told Haaretz.

Israeli peace activists release a sky lantern, hoping to illuminate the sky in Gaza, as they protest Israel's reduction of power supply to Gaza at a beach in Ashkelon, June 19, 2017.
Ilan Assayag

On Tuesday morning, the Israel Electric Corporation carried out further cuts in the electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip, cutting an additional 6 megawatts of power, said Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for Gaza's electricity authority.

The new cuts were carried out on two high-voltage power lines carrying electricity to the western part of Gaza City and to the northern end of the Gaza Strip. This will result in these areas receiving just two and a half to three hours of electricity per day, Thabet said.

The partial operation of the Gaza power plant will temporarily offset the power cuts from Israel up to now, in advance of the Id al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the sources told Haaretz.

A large quantity of diesel and other fuels is scheduled to enter Gaza on Friday from Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing. This fuel is for private and industrial use, though it can be used for powering privately-owned generators. To deal with the power blackouts, people in Gaza have banded together in groups and have bought large generators, such as for a number of buildings or a small neighborhood and have hooked up their homes to the generators in return for a monthly payment. 

On Monday, Israel began reducing the electricity that it supplies to the Strip by 8 megawatts from the approximately 120 megawatts that it has been providing up to now. The two power lines that have been affected supply power to the southern part of Gaza City and to the Khan Yunis area. Sources at the electricity authority in the Hamas-controlled enclave said on Tuesday that in addition, electricity was also cut to a line running along Gaza's coast due to a technical problem.

The Israel Electric Corporation reduced its supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip once again on Thursday morning. This is expected to be the final reduction in a series of cuts in electricity supplies over this past week.

As of Thursday morning, Israel is supplying the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip with 80 megawatts of power, out of the approximately 123 megawatts it previously supplied, says the electricity authority in Gaza.  This means Gaza residents receive electricity for about two and a half to three hours at a stretch, followed by 12 to 16 hours of a blackout.

After the arrival of the diesel fuel deliveries from Egypt, the power station that had been shut down for the past two months has been restarted and it is supplying 45 megawatts of electricity. The electric company in Gaza will begin making this additional power available to resident s either on Thursday or Friday, and they will begin receiving electricity for five or six hours a day – at most, said an official of the Gaza electric company.

The power cuts to Gaza follow a decision by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority to reduce by 40 percent the amount that that it pays Israel for electricity consumption in Gaza. Hamas, which took control of the strip from the Palestinian Authority by force in 2007, has warned that the move could lead to an explosion in Gaza, but Hamas sources have told Haaretz that Hamas are not currently seeking a confrontation with Israel.

Sources noted that agreement on the shipment of diesel fuel was the result of understandings reached between top Egyptian intelligence officials and senior figures in Hamas, including the head of the movement in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar. The sources noted that Hamas is paying for the fuel.

After the tanker trucks arrived in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, including Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tried to pressure the electric company in Gaza not to use the Egyptian fuel, Palestinian sources told Haaretz. This was part of the internal Palestinian conflict between Hamas and the PA, said the sources.

The operator of the Gaza power plant is a private company that works under a contract with the PA in Ramallah. At the same time, Hamas has been pressuring the company's workers in Gaza to use the diesel fuel and keep the power station running.

The Gaza power authority told Haaretz that it was not aware of any such pressure from the PA on the matter, but said Hamas had put great pressure on the local technicians at the power plant to keep it running.

Hamas recently approached a number of countries, including Egypt and countries in Europe, seeking their assistance. Egypt is expected to provide only partial, limited help, but contacts between Egyptian intelligence officials and Hamas emissaries are continuing. There have been growing calls in Gaza for international intervention in the face of the growing electricity crisis in the enclave. Israel has also been making efforts to resolve the issue in cooperation with Egypt and European countries.