Three Babies Reportedly Die in Gaza Due to Constant Power Outages

Hamas and PA blame each other for electricity crisis that has left Gaza with power only 3 hours a day.

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

Three babies have reportedly died over the past two days in the Gaza due to the increasingly severe electricity crisis in the Strip, Palestinian sources say.

So far the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza has not issued an official statement citing the causes of the babies’ death, and said the matter is under investigation.

According to the reports, one of the babies, who died in the Bureij refugee camp, was only 12 days old, and was living with his family in a prefabricated dwelling not connected to electricity. In Dir al-Balah an 8-month-old boy also died, along with a 3-month-old on Monday in Rafah.

The electricity supply in the Gaza Strip has dwindled recently to only three hours a day at most, at irregular hours.

According to individuals familiar with the situation in Gaza, the electricity crisis has worsened because the electric authority in Gaza is unable to buy enough kerosene to fully operate its power station.

Sources in the Gaza Strip say the Palestinian Authority is responsible for the crisis because officials in Ramallah have refused to lift the tax on kerosene, which raises the price by dozens of percentage points.

However, Palestinian Labor Minister Ma’moun Abu Shahla said in an interview with the Voice of Palestine radio station that the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip is to blame.

Abu Shahla said the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah spends about 1 billion shekels ($260 million) for electricity for the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, but the Hamas government imposes additional tariffs and taxes, which it does not send back to the PA. Abu Shahla also said that because Hamas does not allow the Palestinian government to operate in the Strip, it cannot be expected to resolve the crisis.

Hamas responded to the criticism from Ramallah by condemning the statements, which it said were misleading and incite against Hamas in an attempt to influence the other Palestinian factions.