Wednesday, March 14, 2012

No fuel for Palestinians despite Egypt payments

Palestinian schoolchildren hold up candles during a protest in Gaza City calling for supplying the Gaza Strip with enough fuel on 14 February 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

The Palestinian energy authority in Gaza said on Wednesday it had paid Egypt US$2 million for fuel for its crippled power station, but had yet to receive anything in return.

Gaza is experiencing a major electricity crisis because of a shortage of fuel to its sole power plant, mainly caused by a continued Israeli siege imposed on the territory since 2006.

The plant, which supplies nearly a third of Gaza's electricity, has shut down three times in the past month and most Palestinians are receiving only six hours of power a day.

The situation was exacerbated over the weekend by an Israeli bombing campaign which killed 26 people and destroyed key infrastructure.

The Palestinians have turned to Egypt for help, and recently agreed to a deal which included a provision allowing them to immediately begin purchasing fuel from their Arab neighbor.

But the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority (PENRA) said on Wednesday it had yet to receive any fuel, despite having made a down payment.

"US$2 million was transferred to the Egyptian Petroleum Company as a down payment for the fuel needed to operate the only power station in Gaza," PENRA said in a statement published on its website.

"So far, nothing has been received by the station, which has not been operating (fully) for weeks, increasing the suffering of the Palestinian people," it said.

PENRA hopes "the fuel enters as soon as possible so that station can resume operations."

The plant stopped generating power on March 10, for the third time in four weeks, and was operating at sharply reduced capacity on Wednesday.

On February 23, Hamas said it had reached a "comprehensive agreement" with Egypt to end the crisis.

Under the deal, the Palestinians were to begin the immediate purchase of fuel from Egypt, with the Islamic Development Bank funding a project to upgrade and increase the capacity of Gaza's power plant by 40 megawatts.

The deal also called for the eventual connection of Gaza's electricity grid to Egypt's and for the conversion of Gaza's power plant from diesel to gas.


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