Gaza Power Crisis: Egypt Sends Fuel to Gaza as Israel Further Reduces Electricity Flow

Israel further reduces power supply to coastal enclave, local electricity authority says, following Palestinian Authority decision to cut funding

A general view shows a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan in Gaza City, late on June 20, 2017.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

Egypt sent truckloads of diesel fuel into Gaza on Wednesday amid a grave electricity shortage in the Strip. However, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is pressuring the company operating the station not to use it, according to Palestinian sources. 

Officials in the Gaza Strip said the pressure is due to the internal conflict between the PA and Hamas. The power station is privately owned, and contracted by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

The Gaza officials said that even if it is decided to use the 1.1 million liters of Egyptian fuel, that will not solve the problem, because the two generators at the power station use about 700 thousand liters of diesel a day. It’s not worth operating the power station with the Egyptian diesel fuel, only to have to shut it down again two days later, the officials said.

The diesel fuel was loaded onto 11 trucks that made their way into the coastal enclave through the Rafah crossing, according to Gaza's electricity authority.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that the court that hears urgent matters in the Gaza Strip accepted its appeal to compel the company to operate the power station. At this point it is unclear whether the company, whose head office is in the United Arab Emirates, will honor the court order, or whether Hamas will compel the power station’s technicians to operate it. In any case, according to the Gaza officials, even if the power station does operate, it will provide electricity for only five or six hours a day.

The Gaza-based National Movement for Breaking the Siege released a statement yesterday calling for immediate use of the Egyptian fuel, saying that the company operating the power station would bear the responsibility of not doing so “together with whoever gave the order not to use the Egyptian diesel fuel.”

The authority said that the Israel Electric Corporation reduced the power supply by another 8 megawatts. On Monday, Israel began reducing the electricity that it supplies to the Strip by 8 megawatts from the 120 or so that it had been providing up to now. On Tuesday, it cut supplies by an additional 6 megawatts, according to the Gaza authority.

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.

On Tuesday, a Palestinian website identified with Hamas quoted a spokesman for the Rafah border crossing point between Gaza and Egypt as saying that Egypt would be shipping diesel fuel into the enclave to help fuel a power plant in Gaza itself. Palestinian sources in Gaza said about 500,000 liters would be sent, which would only allow the plant to function at partial capacity and for a limited period.

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 absorbing the expense of the fuel. Haaretz has been told that, once up and running, 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.