Gaza under siege

There’s an ice cream parlour across the road from the Friends Meeting House and the Friends International Centre here in Ramallah. I went there again this afternoon. It was my third, or possibly fourth, visit. This time I was with Kathy Bergen, who used to run the Friends International Centre, and a Palestinian friend of hers. I especially like the vanilla and chocolate chip ice cream.

Along the road, close to the Manara, where six roads converge in the centre of Ramallah, I bought today’s English language edition of Haaretz, a liberal Israeli newspaper which often carries good reports on what’s happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as well as in Israel. Dorothy Naor of New Profile invariably includes articles from Haaretz in her daily, or two or three times daily, e-mail bulletins.

A couple of days ago she included an article from Al Jazeera, reporting on lengthy power cuts in Gaza, due to a lack of fuel:

“Gaza power plant shuts down as fuel runs out

“Fuel shortage at facility supplying a third of the Palestinian enclave with electricity leads to power outages.

“The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the territory’s electricity needs.

“A shortage of fuel has halted the production of electricity across the Gaza Strip, the Energy Authority in the Palestinian enclave said.

‘The power plant has been shut down due to fuel shortage. The stock of fuel is zero. All parts of life in Gaza will be affected.’ Fathi el-Sheikh Khalil, the authority’s deputy chairman, told Al Jazeera.

“The electricity supply had been cut off across most of the territory on Friday morning.

“Khalil blamed the power outage on Israel’s destruction of tunnels used for bringing fuel to Gaza and accused the Western-backed Palestinian Authority of charging Hamas too much for its fuel.

‘Less than 50 percent of the needs of the Gaza Strip are currently covered by electricity from Israel [and] we can no longer get Egyptian fuel due to the destruction of tunnels from Egypt,’ he said.

“The Palestinian Authority pledged last week to deliver fuel to Gaza without a usual tax, allowing the Hamas government to buy 400,000 litres of fuel a day.

“But the Authority cancelled its offer of a tax exemption, Khalil said in a statement, making it difficult for the Gaza authorities to afford the fuel.

“Daily blackouts

“The Gaza plant supplies about a third of the territory’s electricity needs.

“In addition to the power plant, which produces up to 65 megawatts, Israel feeds the strip with 120 megawatts and Egypt pours in 27 megawatts.

“Gaza residents have endured around eight hours of daily blackouts in recent years because of fuel shortages. The Gaza Energy Authority said the power plant’s closure means Palestinians could suffer 12 hours of daily blackouts.

‘The plant will remain shut until fuel supplies resume from Egypt through the tunnels or the Rafah border crossing, or from Israel if the Palestinian Authority agrees not to impose the heavy taxes,’ said Khalil.

“In September, the Gaza Energy Authority warned of an impending shortage of fuel and called on Egypt to resume deliveries to the territory.

“Relations between Cairo and Hamas have deteriorated since the Egyptian army ousted President Mohamed Morsi in July.

“An Israeli raid to destroy a Gaza tunnel ignited clashes late Thursday in which tank fire killed four Hamas commanders and five Israeli soldiers were wounded, officials from both sides said.”

With the closure of the tunnels, Gaza is once again under siege. Although food supplies are allowed in and no-one will be allowed to starve, food prices are very high. Coupled with power cuts and overcrowded living conditions, the siege is creating an intolerable situation for the people living in Gaza, which is one of the most densely populated areas on Earth.

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