Fuel arrives in Gaza under new deal
Fuel began arriving in Gaza on Wednesday as per a new deal between the territory's Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, an official said.
"Tanks of fuel holding 45,000 liters each entered through the Kerem Shalom crossing this morning," Raed Futuh, the coordinator on the Palestinian side of the crossing, told AFP. "We're expecting about 430,000 liters of industrial fuel for the electricity plant today," he added.
Gaza has been in the grip of a severe power crisis for months now, with its sole electricity plant unable to function because of an interruption in the supply of fuel to the territory. Under the terms of a deal announced on Tuesday, the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank will supply Gaza with fuel purchased from Israel for so long as the Hamas-controlled Gaza electricity authority pays for it.
Announcing the deal on Tuesday, Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nunu said it would involve the delivery of around 500,000 liters of fuel daily to Gaza. "The price of the delivery will be covered by the Gaza electricity company's revenue," he said.
A spokesman for the PA government confirmed the deal, calling it a "temporary measure" that would be implemented "so long as the electricity company in Gaza continues to pay the petrol company the necessary funds." The deal is intended to compliment an earlier accord between Hamas and Egypt to work to resolve Gaza's long-standing electricity problems.
That agreement, announced by Hamas on February 23, called for three stages, the first of which would see Egyptian companies pumping fuel directly to Gaza under the terms of contracts signed with the firms. The second part of the agreement called for the Islamic Development Bank to fund a project to upgrade and increase the capacity of Gaza's sole power plant by 40 megawatts.
The third phase of the deal would connect Gaza's electricity grid to Egypt's and would convert the Palestinian territory's power plant, which currently supplies around a third of the Strip's electricity, from diesel to gas. Gaza, with a population of nearly 1.6 million, has long suffered outages because of fuel shortages at the plant, which has a maximum capacity of 140 megawatts but for some years has only been able to generate around half of that when operational.
In recent months, the situation has worsened because of a shortage of fuel both for the power plant and the generators residents are using to tide them over during blackouts lasting up to 18 hours a day.