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No Lights in Gaza: Hamas and Fatah Trade Blame

Two-thirds of Gazans were without electricity over the weekend, and Fatah and Hamas blame each other.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 4/11/2010, 5:14 PM / Last Update: 4/11/2010, 5:35 PM

Fatah and Hamas continue to blame each other for the electricity problems in Gaza.

The only power generator in Gaza was completely closed down on Saturday, following a day of warnings that a humanitarian crisis was at hand. Two-thirds of Gaza's population was left without electricity, and Walid Sa'ad Sayel, who heads both the local electric company and the Gaza power plant's board of directors, appealed for a solution to the crisis. 

So far, the response among the ruling Fatah and Hamas factions has been to blame each other.

The Hamas-affiliated Palestinian Information Center (PIC) published accusative headlines against Palestinian Authority prime minister Salam Fayyad and Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak. One headline issued by the PIC read, "The Israeli war minister has instructed Fayyad to tighten the noose around the Gaza Strip.”

In addition to working with Israel to turn off the juice to Gaza, Fatah is also being blamed for stealing monies allocated for fuel. Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nunu accused Fatah of responsibility for the power outage, and of "stealing sums of money donated by the EU to fuel shipments, giving them as increments to its employees."

On the other hand, a Fatah spokesman said the Fatah-run PA pays some 90% of Gaza's electricity bills. He said the PA transferred 185,000 liters of fuel into the coastal enclave during March, that this month's shipment will amount to 210,000 liters, and that Hamas refuses to contribute to fuel shipment payments.

"I ask Hamas leaders the following,” the PA’s Maan news agency quoted the spokesman as saying. “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?”

Another Fatah official told Maan that some Hamas leaders simply don’t pay their home electricity bills, and that some of them owe more than 30,000 shekels each.

Hamas is "fabricating a crisis for electoral and political purposes,” Fatah accuses.

Unsurprisingly, Israel is blamed as well. The Maan report quotes the UN as saying that fuel imports into Gaza have been below need since the Israeli-led siege of Gaza began in 2007, and that current imports represent just 46% of the estimated demand.

Egypt, however, which has also closed its border with Gaza, is not mentioned in the fuel blame-game.

It does, however, receive blame for Hamas cash-flow problems. PA parliament member Jamal Nassar told a Hamas journal over the weekend that Egypt’s blockade has tightened up of late, and that Hamas cannot effect cash-transfers of monies abroad into Gaza.

A former Fatah government minister says this, too, is the fault of Hamas. Bassa Huri, who served as economic minister, recently told Le Monde, “The Europeans should know what happens to the money they send to the PA. Some of it goes to Gaza, where Hamas takes control of it and fills its pockets. Hamas is full of money and it doesn’t even know what to do with it – so they buy real estate. And that’s why land prices have risen three-fold.”