Middle East

Gaza's only power plant resumes after Egypt fuel delivery

A general view of the Gaza Power Plant in the central Gaza Strip (14 June 2017) Image copyright EPA
Image caption The power plant had been dormant since April amid a row over fuel payments

The Gaza Strip's only power plant has resumed work, temporarily preventing a worsening of the energy crisis in the Palestinian coastal territory.

Officials said it was operating, but at a reduced capacity, after diesel fuel was sent from Egypt.

Engineers hope to restore it to full working order within days.

The plant was shut down in April amid an escalating power struggle between Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The closure worsened the already lengthy blackouts which Gaza's two million inhabitants have been experiencing.

Despite the plant's partial resumption, residents will continue to receive four hours of electricity followed by about 14 hours off.

On Thursday, a day after lorries brought a million litres (220,000 gallons) of diesel into Gaza from Egypt, engineers partly restarted the plant.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Egyptian lorries delivered the fuel via the Rafah border crossing on Wednesday

A spokesman for the Gaza Electricity Distribution Company (Gedco), Mohammed Thabet, told the BBC that two of the four generators were now operating

He added that the other two generators would hopefully be operational before the festival of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Islamic month of Ramadan.

The power plant is now generating 45MW - 30% of the 148MW of electricity available in the Strip. Israel is providing 80MW and Egypt another 23MW.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Gaza residents will continue to receive four hours of electricity followed by 14 hours without

Gaza has long suffered from chronic power cuts, says the BBC's Yolande Knell in Jerusalem.

But, our correspondent adds, recent decisions made in Ramallah by the Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, to put pressure on the Hamas government in Gaza have led to a worsening energy crisis.

Hamas stopped buying fuel for the power plant from the PA after the PA scrapped a tax exemption, doubling the price.

And this week Israel - which considers Hamas a terrorist organisation and does not deal directly with it - began reducing the electricity it supplies to Gaza after President Abbas said he would no longer pay Israel the full amount for it.

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Media captionWhen the lights go out, people turn to this Palestinian engineer for creative ways to get by

Mr Abbas had warned in mid-April that he would take "unprecedented steps" to "end the division" between Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.

In 2006, Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections and reinforced its power in Gaza the following year when it ousted Mr Abbas' Fatah faction from the territory.

The rival groups agreed to the creation of a unity government in 2014, but it never got off the ground in Gaza.

Last week, the United Nations warned that a further increase in the length of blackouts was likely to lead to a "total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in health, water and sanitation sectors".