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Middle East
Pay dispute closes Gaza power plant
Gaza officials say Palestinian Authority in West Bank has not paid Israel for fuel.
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2010 11:55 GMT
The Gaza Strip's lone power plant rations electricity because of routine fuel shortages [AFP]

The Gaza Strip's only power station has been shut down due to a fuel dispute between the territory's de facto Hamas government, the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel.

The plant, which supplies 25 per cent of Gaza's power, was closed on Saturday, according to a Palestinian official.

It was the third time the plant has shut down since January, according to the Ma'an News Agency,which reports from the Palestinian territories.

The Gaza Power Authority said the PA had failed to pay Israel, through which the Gaza plant's diesel fuel is routed.

But the PA government has placed the blame on rival Hamas, saying that Gazans are allowed to avoid electricity bills that would help pay for the fuel.

Ghassan Khatib, a spokesperson for the PA, told the Associated Press news agency that Hamas, which is meant to collect the power bills and send them to the West Bank, has only been sending an average of $1.3 million a month, far less than the $9 million the PA pays for fuel.

"We need some transparency here. There has to be some kind of audit," Khatib said.

Limited supplies

Fuel imports into Gaza have declined since November, when responsibility for buying Gaza's fuel transferred from an aid programme run by the European Commission - the executive body of the European Union - to the PA.

Gaza received a limited supply of fuel on Thursday and may receive another shipment Sunday, but for now electricity will be provided in a rotation with six hours on being followed by 12 hours off, Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston reported from Gaza.

GAZA in depth
 

Video: Gaza's deadly power shortage

Most businesses have their own generators to deal with power shortages, but they take around a minute to turn on, which can be crucial for a patient at a hospital relying on one, Johnston said.

The shut down also comes at a time when it could be particularly politically damaging to Hamas and the PA, with temperatures in Gaza routinely soaring into the mid-30s over the summer months.

Israel supplies around 70 per cent of Gaza's power, and Egypt supplies around five per cent, with remainder coming from the plant.

Hamas and the PA have been fiercely divided since Hamas took full control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, pushing out security forces loyal to Mahmod Abbas, the Palestinian president.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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