Phone, Internet Access in Gaza Cut Due to Power Shortages

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A father and his children ride their donkey cart past the idled Gaza power plant at Nusseirat.
A father and his children ride their donkey cart past the idled Gaza power plant at Nusseirat, June 2017.Credit: Adel Hana/AP

The Palestinian telecom firm Paltel announced Tuesday that it has cut phone and internet services to Gaza City after one of its generators broke down as a result of the electric power crisis plaguing the Gaza Strip. Tens of thousands of land-line customers and some 8,000 internet users have been cut off, and those numbers could rise.

In June, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked Israel to reduce the electricity that it supplies to the Gaza Strip, to which Israel acquiesced. Abbas' Palestinian Authority also cut its payments for electric power that Israel supplies to the enclave. The move is just one in a series of steps that the PA has taken to increase the pressure on Hamas, which wrested control of Gaza from the PA in 2007.

The current breakdown was a result of the increased use of the generators to overcome rolling electricity outages, Khalil Abu-Salim, who heads Paltel’s operations in Gaza, told a researcher for the Israeli human rights group Gisha. Technicians were carrying out urgent temporary repairs, but they lack spare parts that Israel will not allow into the Gaza Strip.

When the current electric power crisis began about three months ago, Paltel ordered 40 generators to compensate for the lack of electricity from the grid. The company said 14 of these generators were essential and applied to the Israeli authorities to allow them into the Gaza Strip on an urgent basis. So far only one of these generators has been allowed in.

“Our generators have already been operating more hours than they are able to for three months. Some of them are operating 14 hours straight, which leads to wear and tear and breakdowns. It’s had to know which generator will be the next to go, and the heat wave now adds to the burden,” Abu-Salim said.

Paltel has demanded that Israel allow in the spare parts and the generators as quickly as possible, but has not received an answer. The company warned that without backup equipment and parts, the breakdown could widen and lead to a total collapse of communications services in the Gaza Strip.

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