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PA Charges Hamas With Politicizing Gaza Power Crisis

The head of the PA energy authority says Hamas is playing politics with Gaza's power plant, which went dark when black market fuel dried up.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 2/23/2012, 12:57 PM

Gazans Rally for Egypt to Open Rafiah
Gazans Rally for Egypt to Open Rafiah
Reuters

The head of the Palestinian Authority energy authority charges Hamas with politicizing the Gaza electricity crisis during ongoing negotiations with Egypt.

Asked about allegations that he threatened employees at the energy authority in Gaza, Omar Kittana said, “I refuse to comment on this as we have reached an impermissible point. I was afraid of politicization of this issue."

"We have been exerting efforts with the Egyptians for the sake of serving our people in the Gaza Strip, to provide them with electricity rather than serving the interests of any party," Kittana said.

He added his efforts were focused only on solving the electricity crisis "regardless of any political considerations and bickering."

Kittana says he expects the crisis in Gaza to come to an end very soon, and he highlighted that a joint committee of Egyptians and PA representatives has been appointed to order mechanisms for shipping fuel from Egypt to Gaza.

A draft agreement has been put forward according to which Gaza’s power plant will receive fuel. Shipment will be from Suez “through official crossings,” he said.

Egypt is also negotiating a staged plan with officials in Ramallah that would ultimately connect Gaza to the regional power grid, leading to friction with Hamas who wants to control the negotiations.

The new Gaza energy deal comes after Gaza's power station went dark on February 14 due to a shortage of diesel fuel for its generators.

The current crisis was brought on when sources of black market fuel being shipped to Gaza through Egypt's Sinai Peninsula dried up after Egyptian authorities started to crack down.

"Egyptian officials said we should put an end to this problem and legalize the process and not leave it to the black market and smuggling," Omar Kittaneh, who heads the PA Energy Authority, told reporters.

Hamas has sought to blame Israel for the current energy crisis citing Israel's arms embargo on Gaza. However, observers note that fuel is one of the items that flows through the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to Gaza.

However, officials from the United Nations agency for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) say Gaza has not relied on gas imports from Israel for some time and that the shortage emanates from Egypt, which refuses to open the Rafiah crossing.

"Palestinians gradually developed tunnel infrastructure allowing the transfer of large quantities of fuel into Gaza, at a cheaper price, which resulted in an almost complete halt in the purchase from Israel," OCHA said.

Israel's arms embargo on Gaza, which the UN Palmer Report concluded was both legitimate and lawful as a means of protecting its citizens, was tightened after Hamas seized Gaza in a bloody 2007 putsch.

Prior to the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel provided 120mw of electricity – and fuel for the local generator to produce 70mw of electricity – at market rates, which PA officials called "excessive."