Qatari Fuel Arrives in Gaza Amid Crippling Power Crisis

The strip's power authority says the Qatari-bought diesel will double the amount of power provided to households in the coastal enclave.

A fuel tanker arrives at Gaza's power plant in the central Gaza Strip, January 16, 2017.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

Fuel from Qatar arrived in the Gaza Strip on Monday, helping to ease a crippling power shortage that has sparked rare demonstrations against the territory's Hamas rulers who responded with a crackdown on protesters.

Gaza's power authority said the Qatari-bought diesel would double the amount of power provided to Gazan households.

The coastal strip has been experiencing the worst electricity shortage in years, limiting Gazans to about four hours of electricity per day. The added fuel will grant homes power for about eight hours a day, and Hamas said another ally, Turkey, is expected to supply Gaza with more fuel.

The lack of power has stoked anger and frustration, driving thousands of people to the streets of Gaza last week in rare protests against Hamas and its failure to solve the crisis.

Hamdi Shaqoura, deputy director of the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, said Hamas arrested dozens of people and summoned dozens of others in a bid to prevent more demonstrations. The rights group was still tallying the number of people arrested or summoned.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, has shown little tolerance for dissent since it wrested control of Gaza in 2007. One protest last week, in the Jebaliya refugee camp, was the largest unauthorized gathering in the coastal strip since the takeover. Other scheduled demonstrations have since been thwarted.

Among those arrested was a local comedian, Adel al-Mashwakhi, who made a viral video lamenting the power shortages during the cold winter season. He remains in prison.

Hamas' Interior Ministry said it would release all people who were held against a backdrop of "vandalism and sabotaging during the protests against the electricity crisis."

Life has become increasingly difficult for Gaza's 2 million residents, who are squeezed into the tiny coastal territory. Hamas' violent takeover a decade ago triggered a border blockade by Israel and Egypt that, among other things, sharply aggravated power shortages.

Despite the hardships, anti-Hamas protests have been rare, in part because of fear - Hamas has routinely clamped down on critics - and because even disgruntled Gazans believe there's no realistic path to toppling the militants.