Sunday, April 11, 2010

11-Apr-10: Dark, darker and darkest: Spinning Gaza's electricity crisis

Agence France Press, in a syndicated report published on Friday, says:

Gaza power plant shuts down for lack of fuel
AFP - The sole power plant in the besieged Gaza Strip was shut down on Friday because fuel supplies ran out, with Palestinians and Israel blaming each other. "The power plant shut down completely this morning as a result of a shortage of fuel caused by the Israeli siege," said Kanaan Obeid, assistant director of Gaza's electricity authority, referring to the Israeli blockade of Gaza since its 2007 takeover by the Islamist Hamas movement. But Israel said the shut-down was caused by a rift over funding among the Palestinians, and that the Hamas rival, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, had stopped fuel purchases.
The whole report is here. Dark days in Gaza are nothing new. The blame is invariably placed at Israel's feet, as a briefer Saudi Arabian version of the same AFP story (here) illustrates. But - as we and many others have tried to point out in the past - closer inspection might reveal that having a terrorist regime in charge of both the local power generating resources and the rockets pointed at Israel can be a dangerous combination. You can see some of our previous attempts at throwing light on the issue here and here among others.

This time round, with the lights off again in the jihadist enclave, there are some interesting observations on the latest version of this Darkness in Gaza saga. One of them comes from a Palestinian Arab source that, wonder of wonders, suggests the cause might not be the wicked Zionists after all. The Maan News Agency, a Palestinian Arab business that publishes from Gaza and Bethlehem, is carrying this front-page story at the moment.

Gaza in darkness: PA, Hamas trade barbs over fuel shortage
Published yesterday (updated) 10/04/2010 21:11
Bethlehem – Ma'an report – As Gaza experiences a wide-scale blackout on Saturday, various factions have accused one another for bearing responsibility for the ongoing fuel shortage that has left the coastal enclave functioning below the population's needs. The Palestinian Information Center, affiliated to Hamas, published headlines accusing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak for the extensive blackout. "The Israeli war minister has instructed Fayyad to tighten the noose around the Gaza Strip," one PIC headline read. Speaking to PIC, Gaza government spokesman Taher Al-Nunu said Fatah was responsible for the power outage, adding that the movement in Ramallah was "stealing sums of money donated by the EU to fuel shipments, giving them as increments to its employees."
Ghassan Al-Khatib, spokesman for the Fayyad government, said the PA pays approximately 90% of Gaza's electricity bills, adding that Hamas pays nearly 1 million US dollars for collecting the invoices, in response to a Ma'an query.
According to Al-Khatib, the PA transferred 185,000 liters of fuel into the coastal enclave during March and this month's shipment will amount to 210,000 liters.
The spokesman said Hamas did not want to contribute to paying for fuel shipments. "I ask Hamas leaders the following: There are between 70,000 to 80,000 employees whose salaries are paid for by the PA; 20,000 take their salaries from UNRWA, while Hamas pays the salaries of 50,000 employees. Are these people unemployed? Why don't they pay their electricity bills," Al-Khatib asked. One Ramallah-based official told Ma'an that certain Hamas leaders have left home electricity bills unpaid, worth more than 30,000 shekels. Palestinian Authority sources told Ma'an that Hamas' claims were invalid and that it pays their share of the fuel shipment, along with what is deducted from Egypt to serve Rafah with electricity.
The sources further said the PA pays 25 million shekels per month for industrial fuel needed to power Gaza's sole power station and that Hamas is only "fabricating a crisis for electoral and political purposes."
When Ma'an requested that the PA hand over statistics and numbers relating to fuel transfers into the Gaza Strip, sources said Fayyad's policy is to reduce depreciation and to arrange the financial situation, as there is a 500 million US dollar "leak."
They added that the Ramallah-based prime minister had begun a campaign two-years prior to resolve the finances surrounding fuel shipments, saying the crisis in Gaza is related to the EU terminating its monthly 10 million euro cash injection. Gaza's monthly electricity bill is 130 million shekels, of which the PA pays 90 million, sources said, adding that the remainder was previously paid by the EU.
The sole power generator in the Gaza Strip was completely closed down on Saturday, the head of the electric company announced , following a day of unheeded warnings that a humanitarian crisis was at hand.
Walid Sa'd Sayel, who also heads the Gaza power plant's board of directors, appealed to Arab, international, and Palestinian officials to urgently find a solution to the crisis, which has left two-thirds of the coastal enclave without electricity.
In a statement, Sayel termed the energy crisis "catastrophic," insisting that relevant authorities "rescue the Gazans, who are human beings first and foremost, and they rely on power as much as they need water and air. Without action, we face a humanitarian disaster of unprecedented scale." Shortages have plagued the power plant since December 2009, when European Union officials handed over responsibility for fuel transfers to the Palestinian Authority, apparently at the PA's request so EU aid could be channeled into civil servant salaries. Ever since the handover, as well as the corresponding closure of the main fuel transfer terminal at Nahal Oz, fuel imports have fallen to 50 percent of recent capacity.
And on it goes. Not the clearest or most illuminating of news articles. But there's enough here, including the reference to a $500 million "leak", for some fair-minded observers to wonder whether Israeli actions are the whole story. The whole report is here.

One thing seems clear from the Maan analysis and from past experience. Bringing light to their Gazan Arab brethren, both literally and in terms of disclosing what has really been done over the years with the oceans of aid money channeled into Gaza, rank among the lowest of the items on the Hamas terrorist regime's agenda. Something that the news agencies know but conceal.

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