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Fuel shortages affecting Gazans at all levels

 Palestinians cross  over a section of the border wall seperating the Gaza Strip from Egypt at Rafah crossing point January 2008.
(Victoria Hazou/IRIN)

Fuel shortages and power outages in the Gaza Strip continue to affect civilians and institutions such as hospitals, and remain a part of daily life.

[Read this report in Arabic]

Israel has capped the amount of industrial fuel allowed into the territory, and the sole power plant, which relies on diesel, can only produce about 55MW of electricity, though its capacity is 80MW. Earlier this month Israel also cut about 1 percent of the electricity it supplies directly to Gaza, exacerbating the problem.

In some areas of Gaza residents experience at least eight hours of scheduled blackouts per day, as well as possibly several more hours of unscheduled power outages.

The fuel shortages, combined with limited power from the plant, have caused problems in the supply of drinking water, leaving about 30 percent of Gaza's 1.5 million residents without vital supplies, the Coastal Municipalities Water Utilities said recently.

The utility company was also continuing to dump untreated sewage directly into the sea at the rate of over 30,000 cubic metres per day, as it cannot treat it.

Health services affected

Meanwhile, many ambulances in Gaza lie idle for lack of fuel. The cuts were affecting some hospital ambulances as well as those of the Ministry of Health and the Palestine Red Crescent Society, according to aid workers.

Hospitals were being more cautious with their fuel, dropping non-urgent surgery during power outages, and delaying treatment in an attempt to reduce fuel consumption.

Israeli security officials said they continued to supply a regular amount of fuel - enough in their estimation to prevent a "humanitarian crisis" and allow ambulances to continue their work. One official blamed "internal Palestinian distribution problems" for the situation.

Black market

Some aid workers and human rights activists have said businessmen involved in importing fuel prefer to have some fuel to sell at a profit on the street rather than just supply humanitarian institutions.

This also allows them to keep petrol stations open for a small amount of time, usually about two or three hours most days.

During the breach in the Rafah crossing last month, some Palestinians brought back fuel from Egypt. These supplies are now either being used by individuals or sold off on street corners for triple the normal price.

One taxi driver told the local media he was operating his cab on reserves he bought in Sinai, but once it ran out "I'll park my car and stop," he said.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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