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Power crisis leaves Gaza's main hospital on the brink

More than two million people in Gaza, already living under a crippling Israeli blockade, facing massive power shortages.

power plant

Gaza's main hospital is on the verge of running out of fuel, doctors have warned, amid a deepening power crisis affecting more than two million people already living under a crippling Israeli blockade.

On Tuesday, the only functioning power plant in the Hamas-governed Palestinian territory shut down after running out of fuel, leaving Gaza residents with only six hours of electricity a day.

Gaza's electricity company announced the total available power supply was less than a third of the territory's daily consumption. 

Officials at the Al Shifa hospital on Tuesday said they only have two days of fuel left.

Fuel supply for Gaza's inhabitants has been a long-running source of dispute. The power shortage is a result of a row between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the cost of fuel.

Hamas buys fuel from the Fatah-dominated PA in Ramallah. But fuel taxes are imposed, and Hamas said it could not afford to pay them.

"The sufferings of the people are Gaza are increasing," Khalil al-Hayya, a Hamas official, said.

"Gaza deserves to be protected by the Palestinian official government. Gaza deserves to be heard by everyone."

In addition to the hospitals, it is also the houses, emergency services and schools that are affected by the electricity situation.

"The situation is getting worse and worse," Gaza City resident Rami Kamouny said from his home, holding in his arms his young son, Mohammed, who suffers from severe handicaps and requires intensive care.

"The power cuts are creating more problems here, especially if you have a severely-handicapped child whose life is connected to artificial respiratory systems."

Protests broke out in January over the power shortages, which the Gaza health ministry said could have "dangerous consequences" for patients in hospitals.

The crisis was resolved by tax-free donations from Qatar and Turkey, which ran out last week. But now the PA is no longer willing to waive the fuel for Gaza.

"The taxes have been suspended for the past several months but those in charge in Gaza are pocketing money by not buying fuel," Abdullah Abdullah, a member of the Revolutionary Council of the Fatah movement, said.

"The PA, meanwhile, is paying for two sources of electricity - the one coming from Egypt and the one coming from Israel."

'Unliveable by 2020'

Following the power crisis, the United Nations has said Gaza could be unliveable by 2020.

Robert Piper, the UN coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said the relationship between Gaza City and Ramallah had to be fixed in order for the issues to be resolved.

"Electricity is such a key sector. It affects health, services, hospitals, sanitation, homes and businesses," Piper said. 

"The business sector, already extremely vulnerable, is devastated by four hours of electricity per day. This has a knock-on effect on employment.

"A lot of responsibility has to be shared. We will go nowhere until the issues between Gaza City and Ramallah are solved."

At least 65 percent of residents in Gaza live in poverty, 72 percent are food-insecure, and 80 percent have grown dependent on international aid, according to a recent report published by the EU-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor.

Unemployment in the territory hit an unprecedented 43 percent in the last quarter of 2016.

A Fatah-led delegation is expected to travel to Gaza later this month to discuss reunification efforts with Hamas.

"Today we had about six hours of electricity at my house. Now it's off for the next 12 hours," Ezz Zanoun, a photographer in Gaza City, said on Sunday.

"Tomorrow it might be worse. We're expecting about four hours [of electricity] - and from there the real problems start." 

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