Israel and Palestinian Authority plunge Gaza into Darkness
Even in four-star hotels in Gaza, generators are blocked during prolonged power outages.
Since last April, the only power plant in the Gaza Strip has been shut down for lack of fuel, so the two million inhabitants of the Palestinian Mediterranean enclave have been provide only four hours of energy per day.
If the decision taken by the Israeli Government on Sunday at the behest of the Palestinian Authority is confirmed, the Gazans will remain in the dark.
When it comes to ten years of the seizure of power in Gaza by the Islamist Hamas movement – in which three wars have been waged against Israel – the Palestinian territory has been plunged into darkness.
The escalation of tension threatens to blow up the fuses of a new armed conflict.
The Palestinian Authority presiding over Mahmoud Abbas seems to have grown tired of waiting for the promised formation of a unity government with Hamas and has begun to exert intense economic pressure on the Gaza Strip.
After refusing to pay gas taxes for the Gaza power plant, which was affected by the Israeli bombing in the summer war of 2014, the Ramallah Government has cut the salaries of its officials by 30%.
In May it announced that it would only pay Israel 75% of the energy supplied to the territory controlled by the Islamists.
Israeli Minister of Construction and Housing, Yohav Galant, was 10 years ago the commanding general of the Army’s Southern Command, deployed to Gaza.
“For Israel, Hamas is the equivalent of ISIS in Western countries,” he said in Jerusalem before a group of foreign journalists, hours after the Cabinet had agreed to cut power supply to Gaza.
The Islamists won the 2006 legislative elections, the year after Israel withdrew completely from the Strip.
“In 2007 they surrounded the positions of Fatah (the nationalist party of President Abbas), evicted their political rivals and seized power,” Galant recounts. “Between 30,000 and 40,000 Hamas militiamen continue to hold Gaza’s two million inhabitants hostage.”
Like the rest of Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, Galant argues that the growing climate of tension has been due to the Palestinian fracture between Fatah, in power in the West Bank and Hamas, which rules over Gaza.
The minister declines to reveal when the works of the so-called underground wall, a barrier excavated in the subsoil around the border of the Strip to prevent the tunnels built by Hamas from penetrating the nearby kibbutz, are about to begin.
“The tunnels are their great strategic asset to attack Israel by surprise. If Hamas believes that it is going to lose it, it can trigger a new conflict “, says the former general.
The United Nations has warned Wednesday that the Strip faces an “absolute collapse” of its vital services to the population if the electricity supply is cut by 40%, as announced by the Government of Israel after the reduction of payments from the Palestinian Authority.
The UN humanitarian coordinator in the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, told France Presse that “increasing the duration of power outages can have a devastating effect on health facilities, water supply and sanitation”.
With the civilian population in Gaza trapped by fighting between Palestinian factions, political analyst Talal Okal, one of the few who still maintains independence of opinion in the Strip, believes that “the situation is so bad that it can hardly get worse.”
It is not foreseeable to have a popular outburst, in spite of the protests of the past winter, when the blackouts began to become a common thing, he explained.
“People are not going to stand up to the Hamas militias with their bare chest. Everyone knows that Gaza is subject to a military regime, but they are aware that, directly (in the West Bank) or indirectly (in the Strip), the central problem is the Israeli occupation. Or there is an agreement between the Palestinian parties,” he warns “or the risk of a new conflict with Israel can skyrocket.”
The population also suffers the refusal of Egypt to increase its electrical connections with the Strip.
The embargo imposed on Qatar – one of the main donors of energy to Gaza – by the Gulf countries and Saudi Arabia’s break with Hamas, which until just a few weeks ago claimed its loyalty to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood enemies of Riyadh, have further aggravated the humanitarian situation.
The Israeli NGO Doctors for Human Rights has found that hospitals in the Gaza Strip lack one-third of the medicines considered basic.
No energy, with the water from the wells and beaches contaminated; in a territory subjected to a strict blockade by Israel, with the Egyptian border half-frozen, and frozen Gulf financial support, Hamas spokesmen predict a “catastrophe” and an “explosion” in the Strip.
The UN warned long ago that Gaza will cease to be habitable by 2020.