The Dutch government will assist Israel in improving water and gas supplies to the energy-strapped Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday during a visit to the Netherlands.
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Netanyahu said that while his government is in a conflict with what he called “terrorist forces” in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement, Israel still wishes to improve the quality of life for most people living there.
“We have no battle, no qualms with the people of Gaza,” he said. “The first step is to improve the supply of energy and water to Gaza, including laying a gas pipeline.” Netanyahu said he was publicly committing to making it happen, but did not elaborate on details of the gas pipeline plan.
Gaza faces an energy crisis due to damage to its electric network from past conflicts, together with Israel’s coastal blockade and other sanctions and restrictions. Hamas and its allies have used the Gaza Strip periodically to launch rocket attacks on Israel, notably during the war during the summer of 2014, when rockets were fired at Israel’s major population centers and Israel invaded the strip.
Currently the Gaza Strip has electricity less than half the time, using an eight-hour on, eight-hour off rationing system. There have been major shortages of electricity in the territory for roughly the past 10 years, with power available for about 10 hours a day at the most. The power in the territory is supplied by Israel, Egypt and a single generating plant in the strip that is insufficient to meet the population’s needs.
Hamas has accused the Palestinian Authority, which controls portions of the West Bank, of intentionally preventing supplies of diesel fuel from reaching the strip. A gas pipeline from Israel could allow Gaza’s power plant to double generation from around 200 megawatts at present.
Water supplies to Gaza and the West Bank have long been a point of tension, with the Palestinians saying Israel prevents them from accessing adequate water at an affordable price.