The European Union resumed crucial fuel aid to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, ending days of darkness and stifling heat for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
The EU had suspended fuel deliveries to a major Gaza power plant Sunday on suspicion the strip’s Hamas rulers were pocketing electricity revenues.
The supplies were renewed on Wednesday, Gaza’s energy authority confirmed, after the EU yielded to humanitarian concerns and agreed to audit the plant in conjunction with Hamas’ archrival, the West Bank-based government of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Electricity in central Gaza was up and running by midmorning in some areas, and would be flowing in all affected neighborhoods by afternoon, Gaza Generating Co. said.
Hamas has repeatedly denied skimming money, saying it was the target of a smear campaign by Abbas’ Western-backed government. The fuel cutoff confronted the Islamic militant group with a major crisis just two months after it seized control of the strip, vanquishing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.
Joy tempered by political rivalry
The electricity outage initially began Friday after Israel closed a fuel crossing with Gaza, citing security threats. Although Israel reopened the crossing on Sunday, the fuel shipments were not renewed because the EU notified the Israeli fuel vendor that it would not pay for them.
At least half of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents were left without lights, fans and air conditioning for five days as temperatures soared to 95 degrees.
Israeli and Egyptian companies that power the rest of the strip provided some added electricity. But for the most part, the affected areas were blacked out for 20 hours a day, forcing shops to run on noisy, smoky generators and families to run to grocery stores every few hours to buy food they couldn’t refrigerate.
Fares Radwan, the owner of an electronics shop, welcomed the promised resumption of electricity, but his joy was tempered by the political rivalry that underlay the outage.
“We will remain victims of political blackmail between Hamas and Fatah while no one is paying attention to our suffering or to the Israeli occupation,” Radwan said. “No doubt electricity is like new lifeblood, but I’m still concerned about what the coming days will bring.”