While the Gaza Strip has for years been dealing with a serious electricity shortage, for the past six weeks or so it has also been contending with severe shortages of the liquefied petroleum gas that Gazans rely on for cooking, heating and industrial use.
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According to Palestinian sources in the Gaza Strip, at every gas supply station there are long lines of people waiting to fill gas canisters; in most cases they will only be able to get a portion of their daily needs, sometimes less than 50 percent.
Residents have told the human rights organization Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, that a family sometimes gets only five to six kilograms of LPG per day, which is meant to suffice for both cooking and heating. The supply of LPG to bakeries, hospitals and factories that use gas is also faltering, the residents say.
Samir Hamada, the deputy director of the association of gas station owners and gas suppliers in the Gaza Strip, told Haaretz that the Strip needs an average of 350 tons of gas daily, though in the winter demand grows to 400 tons a day. But in recent months the supply has never exceeded 250 tons on a good day, and recently there has been even less, he says.
“There are some days that they’ve sent us four or five trucks, each of which carried 20 tons. What are we supposed to do with that?” asked Hamada.
The gas supply stations say that the lack of gas has nothing to do with delayed payment or inability to receive the daily gas supply. Mahmoud Al-Ghaban of the Gaza Strip crossings administration explained that payment for the gas is sent to Ramallah, in the West Bank, in advance, and that according to its agreement with the Palestinian Authority, Israel’s Paz Oil Company is supposed to supply gas to both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip on a daily basis. But any time there is a shortage or some disruption, it is Gaza that’s given short shrift, Ghaban said.
Paz admitted that over the past few weeks there has been a shortage of LPG, because the docking of ships carrying gas was delayed by inclement weather. Once the ships dock, the shortage will be relieved, the company said. But according to Gisha, even yesterday only 10 to 12 trucks carrying LPG were sent into the Gaza Strip, so it is difficult to imagine when the gap will be closed.
Hamada said, however, that even when Paz has enough gas it will not be able to send more than 12 to 13 trucks’ worth of LPG a day. He explained that the gas is brought in only through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel. A single pipe is used to transfer it from Israeli to Palestinian trucks, and there is no place to store gas in large quantities.
Hamada said that in the past, gas was also brought through the Nahal Oz crossing, which contains reservoirs where gas could be stored.
Gas station owners have been begging for a new pipeline to the Gaza Strip for several months, but at this point no such project is in the offing.
Israeli officials say there are no reasons having to do with security for restricting the amount of LPG allowed into the Gaza Strip.
With regard to the possibility of laying of another gas pipeline, the office of the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories said in a statement that possible solutions to the gas shortage in the Gaza Strip are under review. COGAT, which is part of the Israel Defense Forces, said the laying of a pipeline for natural gas was also being considered. Officials said the recommendations would be submitted to the government once completed, but gave no indication of when that might be or when the political leadership might make a decision.