The tremendous pressure Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip suffer due to Israel's blockade and sanctions have been crippling the country's economy for at least 10 years now, so news concerning the region's struggle to have access to electricity aren't surprising.
According to The Independent, the only power plant in Gaza ran out of fuel, causing it to cease production of electricity. As a result, the entire enclave has suffered greatly, and the strip is now going through major power cuts. Now, around 2 million people in the territory have to cope with only two to four hours of power a day — and what's worse, schools and hospitals are not able to operate fully.
Without electricity, the water supplies in many households are also limited since they rely on electric pumps. Without water, entire families can't wash their clothes, shower, or even cook.
Recently, Hamas attempted to go around the fuel issue by using funding coming from Qatar and Turkey to buy diesel to run the Israel-based plant. But the West Bank's Palestinian Authority (PA) coordinates delivery of fuel to Gaza. Since Hamas accused the organization of driving up the prices through unfair taxation, the two entities have been in a “dispute,” and now it isn't clear when the next shipment will arrive.
According to Hamas, the plant is unable to afford the fuel taxes imposed by the PA. To the group in charge of Gaza, this means the PA is trying to “ignite an electricity crisis.” But even before this issue, the plant serving the strip has always been unreliable, providing locals with only eight hours a day. With the issue reaching crisis levels, the local health ministry has alerted that the power cuts were endangering the lives of patients.
Fatah leadership behind the PA lost control over Gaza in 2007 to Hamas, which led to the sanctions imposed by Israel. This step made it more difficult for the strip to have access to goods and services as a result, forcing locals to rely on services arranged by the Hamas leadership. With the power crisis in full swing, Gazans have begun protesting their leaders.
But the issues have been causing trouble to locals for some time, and during winter, many have resorted to using unreliable kerosene heaters, scrapping wood indoors or burning coal for power. And while Israel has agreed to run a new high-voltage power line to the area to support desalination plans for clean water and a natural gas pipeline for electricity, both projects will take years to complete. As both Fatah and Hamas continue to fail to settle on a power-sharing agreement, Israel's sanctions will remain difficult to ease.
Palestinians living in Gaza will continue to suffer due to these ongoing electricity problems as 46 percent of the population is unemployed and 96 percent of the water is undrinkable.
To Robert Piper, the United Nations' deputy special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, this situation must end now.
“The UN has been warning for some years that the chronic problems of Gaza are accumulating to the extent that we may be approaching a tipping point at which Gaza becomes unlivable," he told reporters.
But unless the blockade is lifted and sanctions are brought to an end, there will continue to be few options for Gazans who must rely on deals brokered by Hamas.
By opening up the economic channels between the region and the world, Gazans would have more options to obtain electricity, water, and other important goods from elsewhere, allowing the local economy to pick up and finally flourish. But it seems as if Israeli leaders remain fearful of seeing an independent Gaza Strip.