Gaza's Sole Power Station Closes, Residents to Have No Electricity for 18 Hours

Company announces further reduction in power supply, saying it's doubtful that even minimal service will be possible. A power line from Israel is also out of service

Palestinians gather around a fire during a power cut in the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, on January 4, 2017.
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

The Gaza Strip's only power company announced on Monday a further reduction in the enclave's electricity supply after its sole power station stopped functioning. As a result, Gazans will lack power for 18 hours a day instead of 16. 

Meanwhile, a power line used to deliver electricity from Israel has been cut off for about a week.

"We are trying to supply electricity to the residents of Gaza at the minimal extent of four hours a day, but this is also doubtful," the spokesman for Gaza's Electricity Distribution Corporation said. Therefore, said the company, Gaza residents will experience power blackouts for more than the 16 hours a day that has been the norm.

Gaza's energy authority  did not explain why the power station was shut, a source told Haaretz that a lack of diesel fuel caused the closure. According to the authority's figures, Gaza requires 600 megawatts of electricity a day, but the power station, when it functions, provides only 120. Israel provides about another 120 megawatts, while Egypt supplies another 20. 

Last month, Haaretz reported that U.S. President Donald Trump's administration is attempting to convince Arab monarchies in the Gulf to invest as much as $1 million in Gaza's economy. Proposals to ease the electricity crisis included constructing a power station in the northern Sinai to service Gaza and a solar energy project near the Egyptian city of al-Arish. 

A source told Haaretz that the government sees the Gaza Strip's chronic power shortage as an urgent problem, but one that can be solved relatively quickly, assuming that the Gulf states are willing to provide the budget. Last week, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner called on Hamas to tkae concrete steps toward peace if it wants economic aid. 

>> Watch: What it's like living with only four of power a day in Gaza

Israel last week decided to halt the flow of fuel through Gaza's only commercial crossing. The crossing was closed to most merchandise the previous week, but fuel, food and medicine were exempted. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that Israel will fully reopen the crossing in the coming days if there is no violence at the Israel-Gaza border.

Israel and Hamas agreed to restore calm in the Gaza Strip after an escalation over the weekend that included rockets fired at Israel from Gaza and dozens of Israeli strikes on Gaza. The ramping up of tensions began after a Gaza sniper shot and killed an Israeli soldier on the Gaza border.