By Malak Hasan
RAMALLAH, January 16, 2017 (WAFA) – Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah Monday demanded Hamas to hand over the energy authority it currently runs in the Gaza Strip to the national unity government in order to solve the ongoing power crisis.
He said in a press conference held at the Energy and Natural Resources Authority in Ramallah that for the Palestinian Authority (PA) to solve the power crisis, Hamas must hold itself responsible and allow the unity government to be in charge of all sectors in Gaza.
“We are ready to fully run all sectors in the Gaza Strip,” he told local and international press.
The demand came after a severe electricity crisis that sparked protests and unrest in the Gaza Strip after announcing that the electricity cycle will be cut back to three hours per day; five hours short of the regular eight-hour cycle.
Hamdallah said the PA has always assumed responsibility for Gaza’s needs despite Hamas’ refusal to allow it to be fully in charge of the work of ministries and facilities.
He said the Palestinian leadership is facing a defamation campaign by Hamas concerning the power crisis to which he responded that the PA spent $250 million money per year on importing, producing and developing electricity sources in the Gaza Strip.
He said while the West Bank only receives between 4% - 6% in fuel support, the Gaza power plant receives 60% to 80% in fuel support.
“Every month, Israel automatically deducts $10 million to $13 million from the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues to pay for the power feed provided by the Israeli power company,” he said.
He added that the Gaza power plant’s operation and production costs amount to $2 million every month.
“The electricity provided by Egypt to the Gaza Strip costs the PA around $1.8 million every month.”
Hamdallah explained that the money is automatically deducted from the Palestinian Authority’s funds donated by Arab states through the League of Arab States.
Following protests, Qatar pledged to donate $12 million to buy fuel for the Gaza power plant.
The funds would cover the costs of fuel needed to operate the Gaza Strip‘s only power plant for more than eight hours a day.
Hamdallah thanked Qatar and confirmed that an agreement with Turkey is currently being drafted.
“Turkey confirmed it would provide 15 tons of fuel to the Gaza Strip,” he explained.
Hamdallah said that the cabinet and leadership are keen to meet the needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and welcomed the factions’ initiative to form a new board for the energy authority in Gaza in order to solve the crisis.
He expressed worry that should Hamas continue to be in charge of the energy authority, the unity government will not be able to solve the crisis and the initiative to form a new board will fail.
Hamdallah then questioned Hamas for failing to reveal where the money it collects in exchange of electricity to Gaza goes.
The Hamas-run energy authority collects around $6 million for electricity while it should be collecting a total of $19 million. “I am not sure where the $13 million left go?”
He said the authority that collects money for electricity provided should be capable to perform the task and offer guarantees and Hamas should be capable to force organizations and institutions to pay for the services provided.
The PA’s main issue with providing more electricity supplies from Israel is the need to provide Israel with bank guarantees and to be totally in charge of the energy authority. “Without both, our efforts will fail.”
“Gaza receives 200 Megawatts of electricity and according to technicians; this should provide 12 hours of electricity. We need answers,” he said in reference to the announcement that the electricity cycle will be decreased to three hours.
The prime minister addressed people of Gaza saying that the PA will do everything possible to solve the crisis and meet their basic needs.
“It is impossible for the unity government to keep exerting efforts to meet the needs of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and pay for the operational expenses for hospitals, schools and so on and the reconstruction while Hamas is running the Strip,” he said.
The government launched a campaign under the title “We need electricity for Gaza” in an attempt to turn efforts into a reality and end years of electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip.
The Gaza power plant has not run at full capacity in years now due to Israel‘s ongoing measures which aim to fuel imports into the coastal enclave.
Along with war, the power shortage has driven people to the streets to demand a decent power supply and an end to daily blackouts.