Gaza’s only power plant runs out of fuel

Two million Palestinians in the besieged territory now down to a few hours of electricity a day as tensions rise.

Protest against Gaza blockade in Gaza City
At least 65 percent of the two million Palestinians in Gaza live in poverty [EPA]

The Gaza Strip’s only functioning power plant has shut down after running out of fuel, leaving two million people in the Hamas-governed Palestinian territory with only six hours of electricity a day.

Samir Metir, head of Gaza’s electricity provider, told AFP news agency that all the plant’s fuel, purchased with funding from Qatar and Turkey, had been used up.

He said it was not clear when the territory would receive another shipment, owing to a “dispute” between the electricity authority in Gaza and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.

Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 from Fatah, the party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

A mooted power-sharing agreement between the two factions in Gaza has failed to materialise, and residents have been subjected to a decade-long Israeli blockade, strangling the local economy and severely limiting supplies.

Born in Gaza: The deadly blockade

Metir said the power plant cannot afford to pay the enormous fuel taxes imposed by the PA.

“Today we had about six hours of electricity at my house. Now it’s off for the next 12 hours,” Ezz Zanoun, a photographer in Gaza City, told Al Jazeera on Sunday.

“Tomorrow it might be worse. We’re expecting about four hours [of electricity] – and from there the real problems start.”

Protests broke out in January over the power shortages, which the Gaza health ministry said could have “dangerous consequences” for patients in hospitals.

The crisis was resolved by tax-free donations from Qatar and Turkey, which ran out last week. But now the PA is no longer willing to waive the fuel for Gaza.

Fuel supply for Gaza’s two million inhabitants has been a long-running source of dispute, with most homes in the territory receiving two eight-hour periods of electricity a day even when the power plant is operating normally.

READ MORE: Gaza’s female fixers

As things stand, residents can expect two six-hour periods of electricity, Metir said, “including electricity bought from Israel and Egypt”.

Zanoun told Al Jazeera that due to shifting schedules, households are often relegated to only one six-hour period a day.

At least 65 percent of residents in Gaza live in poverty, 72 percent are food-insecure, and 80 percent have grown dependent on international aid, according to a recent report published by the EU-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

Unemployment in the territory hit an unprecedented 43 percent in the last quarter of 2016.

A Fatah-led delegation is expected to travel to Gaza later this month to discuss reunification efforts with Hamas.

Additional reporting by Dylan Collins: @collinsdyl

Why are human rights workers barred from Gaza?

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies