UN: Gaza electricity crisis could lead to violence

UN's Middle East envoy says Israel, PA and Hamas are obligated to end electricity crisis in Gaza.

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Ben Ariel, Canada,

Nickolay Mladenov
Nickolay Mladenov
Reuters

The United Nations warned on Friday that the energy crisis in Gaza was severely affecting water supplies and health services, and could trigger an outbreak of violence.

UN envoy Nickolay Mladenov told the Security Council that Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas terrorist organization, which runs Gaza, "all have obligations for the welfare of Gaza's residents", according to AFP.

A power plant which supplies 30 percent of Gaza's electricity stopped functioning on April 16 after a dispute broke out between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over taxation on fuel.

Gaza receives its power from the Israeli energy company Dor, but has not paid the company for several months. After a previous energy crisis a few months ago, Gaza received a supply of fuel from Turkey and Qatar, but both supplies have since been spent.

The Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA) government, headed by Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas, has admitted it has no control over the goings on in Gaza, which was overtaken by Hamas in a bloody coup in 2007.

Currently, the majority of Arabs in Gaza are receiving about four hours of electricity per day, but Hamas leaders enjoy electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"How long do you think they can survive if this is further reduced to two hours of electricity per day?" Mladenov told the council on Friday, speaking via video uplink from Jerusalem.

"Who will pay the price of the ensuing violence and escalation?"

Hospitals have been forced to postpone surgeries, and desalination plants are functioning at 15 percent of capacity, providing drinking water for a few hours every two to four days, Mladenov said, according to AFP.

The envoy said that 100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage was being discharged into the Mediterranean every day because treatment plants are unable to fully operate.

This is "an environmental disaster for Israel, Egypt and Gaza in the making," said Mladenov.

The United Nations has set up an emergency fuel operation to help maintain essential services for water, health and sanitation, but "our reserves will run out in the coming weeks," he warned.

The envoy told the Security Council that "unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate, the crisis risks spiraling out of control with devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike."

His comments came a day after the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, warned that Israel could cut off Gaza's electricity supply due to the fact that Gaza’s electrical bill is not getting paid because of the longstanding Hamas-Fatah feud.

"Israel will have to cut the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, Hamas collects NIS 100 million a month from the residents of the Gaza Strip in goods and from taxes paid by all the oppressed Palestinians in the Gaza Strip; it does not reach the Palestinian Authority (PA). The reason is that Hamas prefers to use the money for digging tunnels, and its organization, and the people get only what is left over from that," Mordechai told BBC’s Arabic language service.

"Israel today is the only one supplying electricity to the Gaza Strip. The power station there does not work, and the power lines from the south are also not transmitting electricity. 125 megawatts come from Israel. The Israeli government has decided to increase this by another 100 megawatts, but unfortunately, there are problems between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the PA in Ramallah, which caused the PA to decide not to pay for the electricity," he added.

(Arutz Sheva’s North American desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)