The Independent / May 17, 2021
Damaged power lines could see blackouts and water shortages, warn officials.
Gaza will run out of fuel to run its power station in two days, according to officials who warned it will see homes and hospitals plunged into darkness after the most intense bouts of fighting since the 2014 war.
Households across much of the tiny blockaded strip are already only receiving four hours of power a day because of the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel through which Gaza receives its fuel.
The fighting has also damaged power lines to Israel, which according to Israeli media has cut more than 230,000 Gazans off from electricity.
But now there could be total blackouts if no new fuel is brought to the strip to power the last remaining turbine at Gaza’s power plant.
According to statistics from the Palestinian energy authority and Gaza’s Electricity Distribution Company, fuel currently being used, which was already being diverted from private companies, will run out in just two days.
It will leave Gaza with just the remains of power coming from Israel, which is providing only 30 per cent of its usual output because of damage to main lines.
“All of this will affect life in Gaza,” said Mohammed Thabeth, a spokesperson for Electricity Distribution Company of Gaza. “Especially the medical sector. We’re talking about dialysis machines, medical imaging equipment, ventilators and intensive care units. The water sector will also be affected too, all vital facilities will.”
This comes during one of the heaviest Israeli bombardments of Gaza since the 2014 War, with 42 people killed on Sunday alone and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signalling that fighting would continue despite international efforts to broker a ceasefire.
Hamas militants have fired 3,100 rockets into Israel over six days, close to the total number of rockets fired at Israel during the seven-week 2014 war.
The Israeli army told The Independent 3,852 rockets were fired at Israel during the 2014 conflict. Army officials said the current barrage was the “highest daily rate of rocket fire that Israel has faced in the history of the country”.
Despite furious attempts to broker a ceasefire by international mediators, including a US envoy who arrived in Israel on Sunday, neither side appeared to be backing down. The UN Security Council and Muslim nations held emergency meetings on Sunday to demand a stop to civilian bloodshed, but at present there is little sign of a breakthrough.
In a televised address on Sunday, Mr Netanyahu said the attacks were continuing at “full force” and would “take time”.
Israel “wants to levy a heavy price” from Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers, the prime minister said, flanked by his defence minister and political rival, Benny Gantz, in a show of unity.
Hamas also pressed on, launching rockets from civilian areas in Gaza towards civilian areas in Israel.
One slammed into a synagogue in the southern city of Ashkelon hours before evening services for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, Israeli emergency services said. No injuries were reported.
Medics say 10 people in Israel, including two children and a soldier, have been killed by rocket fire.
In Gaza 197 people have been killed, including 58 children and 34 women, according to the health ministry.
Now the 2 million population of Gaza has to contend with sweeping blackouts.
Shawan Jabarin, from Palestinian rights group al-Haq, told The Independent Gaza needs around 520 megawatts to power the strip.
Citing Palestinian Energy Authority statistics he said Gaza is only getting 45 megawatts from Israel due to the damaged lines, and 25 megawatts from one of four turbines that are still operating, with smaller amounts from private generators and solar.
The statistics match those given by Mr Thabeth in Gaza. Once fuel runs out that power station will stop working completely.
“Already most of Gaza only has four hours of power a day and some no electricity at all,” he said.
“This not only impacts homes but will cause water shortages, as water pumps will stop working.”
Israeli security offices have blamed Hamas rockets for the destruction to the power lines which cross over into Israel, while Gaza officials say it is the air raids.
Israeli media reported that Hamas rockets also damaged power lines, cutting more than 230,000 Gazans off from electricity.
Mr Thabeth, however, said Israeli airstrikes on roads and crossroads destroying the cable network underground was to blame.
Qatar, which has long provided financial aid to the strip with Israeli approval, has announced it will provide “urgent relief aid” to Gaza from Monday.
Bel Trew – Middle East Correspondent, in Jerusalem