Written by and posted on behalf of Robert Inlakesh, a political rapper and human rights activist.
Gaza’s population of 2 million, illegally besieged by the state of Israel, are now facing complete darkness. The Israel electrical authority have been threatening Hamas for some time now with shutting down Gaza’s power, due to its “failure to pay its electrical bill” and now internal politics between Hamas and the PA see a battle that has only hurt the people of Gaza and moved neither party in a positive direction.
Threats thrown towards Mahmoud Abbas have come firing from Hamas officials, whilst the PNA (Palestinian National Authority, or ‘PA’ for short) have made their claims that Hamas are responsible for the crisis. No party is seeming to take the responsibility and now Gaza will face a crisis that (as many times before) will leave them in the darkness.
Since last year the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has been taken to another level, in 2016 some Palestinian households within the territory would gather almost 8-12 hours of electricity. However, due to the conditions imposed via the Israeli apartheid regime, Gaza has been launched into the next level of depravity which is seeing Palestinians in Gaza being forced to deal with 3 hours of electricity per day. Even worse, it is still a source of power that Gazans do not even know when will be turned on and off.
Blackouts started earlier this year back on 3 January 2017, resulting in mass protests in locations such as Jabaliya (Northern Gaza). Life was becoming unbearable to an extent that supersedes the standard inhumane conditions of Gaza and people became restless.
In response to these demonstrations, an increase in electricity was achieved with Turkey pledging to send 15,000 tons of fuel and a deal being struck between Qatar and Hamas. Qatar pledged a total of 12 million USD in fuel which was stretched out over 3 months, however now Gaza have depleted these donations and are in dire need of help which has not yet come from these two countries which nonetheless continue funnelling money to Islamist militias that terrorize the population of Syria.
As of late Hamas have been stressing to the PA that its taxes are too high to pay and are resulting in difficulties within the Gaza strip. Thus Hamas, who is in control of the power plant, ended up buying less fuel. Then in what is the perceived reaction from the PA to Hamas’s inability to pay, wages of its Gazan employees were cut by 30 to 70 percent, which in turn is sending some Palestinian families below the poverty line.
So in all of this, Israel has lashed out for not being payed, the PA are erasing the wages of their employees in Gaza, they are in debt to Israel, Hamas will not pay what the PA calls their fair share of the taxes and now Gaza has lost its power. The people suffer.
The electrical infrastructure of Gaza
Gaza has one power plant which is fractionally operational, it also has six Israeli electrical lines that run into the strip as well as two more lines from Egypt that are currently running into operational problems regularly and do not meet Gaza’s needs. Even if all three methods worked, Gaza still would not have sufficient power for its population.
The two million Palestinians in the Gaza strip require 550-600 megawatts (MW) of electricity per day but receive only a fraction of this. This means from basic life around the house (ie. having light to study, power for refrigeration and recharging mobile phones) to hospitals being able to operate properly, all becomes immensely difficult due to the lack of power.
Hamas the elected government of Gaza as of 2006, do not recognize Israel and do not do deals with them, therefore the deals for gasoline to fuel the power plant are done via the PA who buy it primarily off of two Israeli companies – Paz and BAZAN. Then, the power plant authorities (under Hamas) pay for the gasoline in order to operate.
The one and only ‘Gaza power plant’, built in 2002 is powered by diesel gas (as natural gas has never been made available), it was manufactured to produce 140MW, but due to repeated IDF aerial attacks is now operating at roughly half of its original rate. Furthermore, Israel through its protracted siege of the territory has prohibited the import of the materials that are needed to repair the plant properly.
As of 2013 the plant runs off of diesel fuel imported from Israel, as Egypt cut off its tunnels to al-Arish which, in the past, also provided a means of getting fuel into Gaza.
Israel’s trading of oil and electricity with Gaza should not be mistaken as generosity or relief. Israel engages in such transactions on very pragmatic grounds. First, Israel makes money selling gasoline to the PA and also gains a mechanism of financial control over it via debt; it is a good bargaining tool and the prices Israel charge are extremely high for Palestinians. Second, ever since the Oslo Accords Israel has de facto control of Gaza’s external boarders and international treaties and agreements.
With the electricity cut, we can expect to see problems with the operation of hospitals, schools, general household appliances and universities. Anything without a separate generator will simply cease to function. However, a major infrastructure in Gaza which will be undermined, is its ability to pump its sewerage.
In the past there were other ways of dealing with waste sanitation but due to the ten year siege and repeated bombings of critical infrastructures, Gaza’s only single method of ridding itself of sewerage is pumping the waste into the sea. This unfortunately also comes to fail with the lack of electricity and results in waste flooding into the streets; inevitably this leads to health problems for the civilians, which we may very well see in the coming days.
Overall, conditions continue to worsen within Gaza and in this parade of political power play, humanitarian crises and social disenfranchisement, the last people to be accounted for are the innocent people of Gaza.