Hamas: Egypt to supply Gaza Strip with fuel for electricity

AFP & MENA, Thursday 23 Feb 2012

Palestinian resistance faction makes fuel-import agreement with Egypt in hopes of ending Gaza's electricity crisis; Red Cross ships 150,000 litres of fuel to Gaza health ministry on Thursday via Karam Abu Salem

Ismail Haniya

Hamas has reached a "comprehensive agreement" with Egypt to permanently end Gaza's ongoing electricity crisis, the Islamist movement said on Thursday.

"A comprehensive agreement has been reached with Egyptian officials to put a permanent end to the electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip," Hamas spokesman Taher Al-Nunu said in a statement.

He added that the deal was the result of "intensive" efforts by the Hamas prime minister in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Heniya, during talks with Egyptian officials and the Islamic Development Bank.

The deal comes after the sole power plant in the impoverished territory was forced to shut down after running out of fuel – a longstanding issue in Gaza, where an Israeli blockade limits imports and exports.

Al-Nunu said the deal would involve three stages, the first of which would see Egyptian companies pumping fuel directly to Gaza under the terms of contracts signed with the energy firms.

"The prices will be international prices and the fuel will be transferred in a way Egypt deems appropriate," the statement said.

The second part of the agreement will see the Islamic Development Bank fund a project to upgrade and increase the capacity of Gaza's power plant by 40 megawatts, it added.

The third phase of the deal will see Gaza's electricity grid connected to Egypt's and will seek to convert its power plant, which currently supplies around one third of the strip's electricity, from diesel to gas.

Al-Nunu said the Islamic Development Bank, founded by members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, would contribute $32.5 million (roughly 24.5 million euros).
Also on Thursday, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it had delivered 150,000 litres of diesel to Gaza's health ministry.

"The fuel will help 13 public hospitals maintain essential health services for the next ten days," the group said, adding that hospitals in the territory were now relying on generators for up to 18 hours a day.

Gaza has long suffered outages because of shortages at its power plant, which has a maximum capacity of 140 megawatts but for some years has only been able to generate around half of that when operational.

In recent weeks, the situation has deteriorated because of a shortage of fuel, most of which is smuggled through cross-border tunnels from Egypt.

International aid agency Oxfam on Saturday warned that the lack of fuel meant Gaza was facing "a total collapse of essential services," adding that only an end of Israel's blockade of the territory would solve its electricity shortage.

Israel imposed the blockade in 2006 following the capture of one of its soldiers in June of that year. It was tightened a year later after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip, with Israel tightly restricting the amounts of fuel allowed through the crossings.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross in Gaza announced on Thursday that it had transferred 150 thousand litres of fuel to Gaza's health ministry through the Karam Abu Salem crossing. The fuel will be used to run power generators in Gaza's public hospitals so that they would be able to provide health services over the next ten days.

Erfan Solimany, head of the Gaza Red Cross, said that the fuel shortage in Gaza was negatively impacting local hospitals and could lead to thousands of patients not receiving badly-needed medical treatment.

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