Gaza’s only power plant ‘shuts down for lack of fuel’

Gaza power plantGAZA CITY (AFP) — The Gaza Strip's only power plant shut down Saturday due to a lack of fuel from Israel, which closed a goods crossing after militant rocket attacks, the energy authority said.

"The plant has completely ceased to function due to a lack of fuel caused by (Israel's) closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing," said Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy director of the energy authority in the Palestinian territory ruled by the Islamist movement Hamas.

On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza and the Erez pedestrian crossing "until further security assessments."

In response, Khalil said, the energy authority cut the plant's operation from only 12 hours a day to six until the fuel ran out.

Khalil told Ma'an Sunday — before the recent flare-up between Gaza militants and the Israeli army — that the plant would be shutting down within "four or five days" because fuel donated by Qatar had run out.

But on Wednesday, Qatar agreed to continue funding fuel for three more months, Gaza's energy authority said, according to Reuters.

The power plant, which supplies some 30 percent of Gaza's electricity needs, has been forced to shut down several times, most recently in December.

Qatar donated $10 million to Hamas authorities in Gaza for fuel in the wake of the humanitarian crisis caused by severe weather in the region in December.

Even before winter storm Alexa, Gaza had experienced extreme fuel shortages that cut off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents since early November. 

The Gaza Strip has been under a severe economic blockade imposed by Israel since 2006. Although enforcement from the Egyptian side eased following the 2011 revolution, since the July ouster of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi military authorities have tightened control.

The blockade has severely limited the imports and exports of the Gaza Strip and has led to frequent humanitarian crises and hardship for Gazans.

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