With the besieged population of the Gaza Strip facing severe electricity shortages, the one operational power station that was not bombed by Israeli forces last year shut down early Saturday morning due to a lack of fuel.The head of the Gaza Power Authority, Kan’an Obeid, blamed Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, of the rival Fateh party, for failing to pass on a payment to Israel for a shipment of industrial fuel. Obeid said that the people of Gaza had made the payment, despite their 80% rate of unemployment, but that Israel required that the payment go through the rival government in the West Bank, which Gazans consider corrupt and inept.
Obeid warned that the ongoing humanitarian crisis could be severely exacerbated by the current shortage. The shutdown comes just days after an assessment by the Palestinian Authority (Hamas) in Gaza found that the power station was running at just 33% of capacity.
Prior to Saturday’s shutdown, most people in Gaza had been facing rolling blackouts over the last several years, 12 hours on, 12 hours off, with no control over when they could have power to their homes and businesses. Now, the reality they are facing is 24 hours off, with no end in sight.
The need for electricity has increased now that the severe heat of summer has begun, and the danger of heat stroke for elderly individuals has increased significantly due to the lack of power.
Israel has severely restricted the entry of fuel into Gaza since 2007, as part of its ‘siege warfare’ strategy which Palestinians say is collective punishment, and a violation of international law.