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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Media missing the real story on Gaza blackouts

From Reuters:
The Gaza Strip’s only power station, which supplies the Palestinian enclave with up to two-thirds of its energy needs, was shut down on Tuesday because of a shortage of fuel smuggled in from neighbouring Egypt.

The closure led to widespread blackouts for Gaza’s 1.7 million inhabitants. The local power company warned that households would receive only six hours of electricity a day until the problem was resolved.

“We are sorry to announce that we are unable to provide hospitals, education premises, water pumps and waste water facilities and all other fields of life with the enough quantities of electricity,” said Abu Al-Amrain, information director at the Energy Authority.

He urged Egypt to allow more fuel into Gaza, but did not explain what had caused the sudden drop in the flows.
The reason, as I have reported, is that Egypt cracked down on fuel smuggling from the Sinai to Gaza, as it is suffering its own fuel shortages.
Locals said in normal circumstances a fleet of trucks arrived at the Egyptian side of the border and pumped fuel through pipes in the smuggling tunnel that led into Gaza.

Israel provides the Mediterranean territory with at least 35 percent of its energy needs, but closed off its own fuel pipeline into the enclave in January 2010.
Israel closed the Nahal Oz pipeline in January 2010 - but it kept the Kerem Shalom pipeline, and even built a new one there with double the capacity.
Abu Al-Amrain said Israel bore overall responsibility for the ongoing crisis, but Mustafa Ibrahim, a human rights researcher and writer, said Hamas’s administration had failed to provide the territory with an energy safety net.

“[The Energy Authority] made everything depend on fuel smuggled through the tunnels, without having any guarantees that this flow could continue. The current severe crisis is evidence that this was the wrong approach,” he said.
The webpage for the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority indeed blames Israel for the problem - and this is a baldfaced lie.

The only reason Israel isn't sending fuel to Gaza is because in January 2011, Hamas requested that the shipments stop as the Gaza power plant engineers figured out a way to run the plant on smuggled fuel from Egypt, rather than the industrial grade diesel that it had used before.

As I reported exclusively yesterday, the IDF answered my query
The decision to buy heavy-duty diesel from Egypt and not Israel was made by Hamas. Over the last year, the government in Gaza has gradually stopped buying diesel from Israel and increased its purchases from Egypt. This is also the source of the recent power problems in the Strip, including the local power plant shutting down.

There is no Israeli decision to purposefully stop selling diesel to Gaza; the decision came from the Hamas, and again, the situation isn't black and white--if you look at previous reports from the last months, there are still small amounts of diesel entering Gaza from Israel. If and when the demand returns, Israel is fully willing to supply, as it did in the past.
This is an artificial problem. Gaza can get fuel for the power plant today. Hamas refuses to accept fuel from Israel for whatever reason (it still accepts tons of aid coming from Israeli crossings every day.) As a result, Hamas is purposefully endangering its own people.

This is the story that the media is missing, including AFP.