Israel reduces power supply to Hamas-ruled Gaza

A Palestinian man repairs generators at his shop in Khan Younis, Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 19 June 2017
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Israel reduces power supply to Hamas-ruled Gaza

GAZA CITY: Israel’s national electric company on Monday cut back its already limited electricity shipments to the Gaza Strip, a step that is expected to worsen the power crunch plaguing the Hamas-controlled seaside territory.
The company confirmed the Israeli government instructed it to reduce supply to Gaza at the request of the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ government in the West Bank.
Abbas recently told Israel he would cut payments for Gaza’s electricity. Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas’ forces a decade ago, and the internationally recognized Palestinian leader is trying to step up pressure on the militant group to cede power.
With Gaza’s small power plant out of commission, and Israel providing a fraction of what the territory needs, residents have been scraping by with about four hours of electricity a day.
Mohammed Thabet of the Gaza electricity distribution company said Gaza’s roughly 2 million residents could expect to receive even less power.
“There is nothing that we can do,” he said.
Thabet said Gaza was receiving 112 megawatts of power a day, down from the previous level of 120 megawatts daily Gaza needs about 400 megawatts to meet its daily needs.
Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies that have fought three wars over the past decade.
But Israel has continued to provide limited power to Gaza, paid for by the Palestinians, to prevent a humanitarian crisis on its doorstep and out of concern that more instability could lead to renewed fighting. Last week, Hamas warned of renewed violence against Israel if power is cut.
Israel has described Gaza’s power crisis as an internal Palestinian issue, saying it is merely a supplier.
In a statement, the electric company confirmed it had begun to reduce supplies on Monday and said shipments would be scaled back gradually, “so that the electricity supply will match the financial commitment.”
“The internal deliveries of electricity to consumers inside the Gaza Strip is not the responsibility of the electric company and is done by internal Palestinian authorities in the Gaza Strip,” it said. Israel accuses Hamas of diverting Gaza’s limited electricity for military use and worsening the hardship on its people.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade on Gaza since the Hamas takeover in June 2007, restricting the movement of people and goods in and out of the territory. Israel says the restrictions are needed to prevent Hamas from smuggling weapons.
Abbas has grown increasingly frustrated with repeated failures in reconciliation talks with Hamas and the group’s refusal to cede control of Gaza. In recent months, he has stepped up financial pressure on Hamas.
In April, he reinstated taxes on fuel bound for Gaza’s only power plant, making Hamas unable to afford it. As a result, the small station has stopped working. Gaza now receives its only electricity from Israel, and a small quantity from Egypt.
Abbas has also cut the salaries of tens of thousands of former employees in Gaza, hurting the territory’s already poor economy.
Gaza authorities have warned of impending health and environmental crisis because of the power shortages. Each day, 31 million gallons of untreated sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea.


In an Iraqi village, a little girl hides skin disease from neighbors

Haura, a 4-year-old Iraqi child, in the village of Wahed Haziran, Diwaniya province, has a rare skin disease that covers much of her upper body in black marks and hair. AFP
Updated 52 min 55 sec ago
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In an Iraqi village, a little girl hides skin disease from neighbors

  • Iraq’s medical system has been destroyed by the 15 years of chaos
  • We have seen several doctors and they all told us that she cannot be treated in Iraq

WAHED HAZIRAN: Four-year-old Iraqi girl Haura should be enjoying her childhood — games in the street, tearing in and out of friends’ homes and small squabbles over toys.
Instead, a rare congenital skin condition covering much of her upper body in black marks and hair has made her the object of ridicule in her village, about 200 km south of Baghdad.
Everyday, Haura’s parents dress her in long sleeved shirts and high collars, but it is a losing battle — her neck gives her away, to laughter and jeers.
“In two years, she will have to go to school — we really dread that,” says Haura’s mother Alia Khafif at the family home, in Wahed Haziran, Diwaniya province.
“How will the other children behave with her? We can’t guarantee that she’ll be comfortable in a school and this is the biggest obstacle for her future,” sighs Khafif, dressed in a traditional long black veil.
The black marks and hair cover Haura’s shoulders and almost her entire back, along with much of her arms and neck.
But things could still get a lot worse.
Her condition, a giant form of naevus — birthmarks or moles — make her highly vulnerable to malignant melanoma, the most dangerous skin cancer.
To ward off a potentially “fatal” outcome, the best treatments would be a skin graft and laser sessions, dermatologist Aqil Al-Khaldi tells AFP. He also recommends psychological help.
But Haura’s despairing family can’t afford these things.
Iraq’s medical system has been destroyed by the 15 years of chaos that has followed the toppling in 2003 of dictator Saddam Hussein, and by more than a decade of sanctions before that.
“We have seen several doctors and they all told us that she cannot be treated in Iraq. They all say we have to go to a specialist center abroad,” says Haura’s mother.
“We cannot afford the journey or medical costs.”
Even treatment to alleviate itching is beyond the family’s reach — and the irritation gets worse with the Summer heat, as temperatures regularly exceed 50 Celsius.
“What we have is barely enough to live on and to send four brothers and sisters to school,” adds Khafif, whose husband is old, sick and unemployed.
Haura’s teenage brother Ahmad stands up for her.
“She’s a normal child, there’s nothing wrong with her,” he insists.
“But when she leaves the house, our neighbors laugh at her.”
Outside in the street, passing children avoid her like the plague.
“Even if the Prophet asks us, we won’t play with her,” one says.
So when her siblings head to school, Haura sits and plays on her own — or peers mournfully into a little green-framed mirror, held up close to show only her big brown eyes and pretty face.