Gazans despair over fuel tensions with Israel

Special Gazans despair over fuel tensions with Israel
Palestinians play cards during power cut at a roadside coffee shop lit by battery-powered lights in the northern Gaza Strip. (Reuters)
Updated 28 August 2019

Gazans despair over fuel tensions with Israel

Gazans despair over fuel tensions with Israel
  • Palestinian fears have increased as Israel has halved the amount of fuel allocated to Gaza’s only power plant

GAZA CITY: In the Gaza Strip, concerns are growing that war with Israel may be on the horizon once again.

Tension in the region is higher than normal, following a series of incidents that has led the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to ramp up operations, coming, it says, in response to rockets fired by Hamas at the town of Sderot.

Palestinian fears have since increased as Israel has halved the amount of fuel allocated to Gaza’s only power plant.

Officials say the decision to cut fuel will have a negative impact on all walks of life in the Gaza Strip, but many people fear it could trigger further escalation and conflict.

Mohammed Hamdi Al-Tuwaisi told Arab News he was concerned at the direction things were heading. “We live in a bitter enough reality in Gaza without war, let alone with wars like five years ago.” Al-Tuwaisi lost his job then, when the factory he worked in, for ready-mixed concrete, located east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, was completely destroyed in 2014.

“The majority of people in Gaza are living in disastrous conditions because of poverty and unemployment, and a new war would be intolerable,” said Al-Tuwaisi, who supports a family of nine and lives in a modest home in a refugee camp in Rafah.

UN estimates indicate that more than half of the Gaza Strip’s 2  million people live on humanitarian aid, with unprecedented levels of poverty and unemployment.

Due to Israel’s decision to reduce the amount of fuel for the power plant, Al-Tuwaisi fears that he will lose his job again, this time at a local ice-cream factory in the southern town of Khan Younis.

He currently earns 30 shekels a day ($8.5), and says that in previous crises where the power plant stopped working, when electricity supplies were reduced, the factory owner had to cut employee numbers by more than half.

Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the Electricity Distribution Co. in Gaza, said that the electricity schedule would be negatively affected by the Israeli decision to reduce the amount of fuel supplied to the power plant.

Thabet estimated that the electricity would be limited to about 6 hours a day, should one of three generators working at the plant stop.The electricity needs of the Gaza Strip normally ranges from 450-500 megawatts, increasing during winter.

He warned of disastrous consequences for hospitals, sewage treatment plants, municipalities and other institutions that provide vital services should Israel not reverse its decision. The Israeli government coordinator in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Kamil Abu Rokon, said fuel delivered to the Gaza power plant through the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing would be reduced until further notice.

In response to the decision, Hamas spokesman Abdel-Latif Al-Qanoua called on mediators to stop the Israeli action, stressing that reducing fuel was a “collective punishment” of two million Palestinians which “would not
be tolerated.”

A Hamas delegation left for Cairo, which observers say is an attempt to calm the situation and prevent its deterioration, in light of Israeli threats that upcoming general elections scheduled next month would not prevent it from reacting strongly if rocket fire from Gaza continued.

Israeli affairs researcher Momen Mekdad believes that neither Hamas nor Israel are interested in war at the moment, but that this conviction may fade if Israel felt sufficiently provoked, as reflected by recent Israeli bombing in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.