This week in Gaza: Power plant not working since Friday
October 29, 2013 – November 5, 2013: Blackouts in Gaza are up to 16 hours per day and there is a 60% electricity deficit • The fuel shortage has also affected the fishing industry, and as a result the price of shrimp in the Strip has doubled • Between 60% and 80% of the construction companies affiliated with the Contractors’ Union are working at limited capacity or not at all • As of last week, there were 2,900 individuals on the waiting list to exit via through Rafah.
The Gaza power plant stopped working on Friday morning (November 1, 2013) due to insufficient supplies of industrial diesel. It has not worked since. Blackouts now last 16 hours per day on average and the electricity deficit has reached about 60%, or approximately 200 megawatts. Gaza currently gets all of its electricity from Israel and Egypt.
On Thursday and Friday, approximately 600,000 liters of industrial diesel destined for Gaza’s power station entered the Strip. During the week, the station used only one of three turbines. The diesel was transferred thanks to an agreement between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government, according to which the PA would subsidize the diesel and the Gaza electric company would only pay NIS 4.2 per liter instead of 7.2. No additional industrial diesel has been ordered for the power station since.
The fuel shortage in Gaza, caused by decreased tunnel activity, has affected the fishing industry among others. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as a result of high fuel costs, only 24 large fishing boats and 5 small fishing boats were able to go out to sea in September. As a result, the price of shrimp in the Gaza Strip has doubled, and the demand for fish brought in via Kerem Shalom Crossing has increased.
While during the first half of 2013, an average of 58 tons of fresh and frozen fish were imported into Gaza every month, in September, the volume was 98 tons, representing a 69% increase. This is both the result of the decline of Gaza's fishing industry and the fact that no fish are currently being brought through the tunnels from Egypt.
The fuel shortage has also adversely affected production in Gaza's factories. Fuel from Israel is more expensive than fuel brought in through the tunnels. This increases production costs and often results in higher prices for products.
The construction sector:
The Contractors’ Union estimates that 60% to 80% of the companies affiliated with the union are working at limited capacity or not at all. According to the Construction Industry Association, 85% of the factories that produce concrete and cinder blocks are not working. The factories that are operating are using construction materials they had stored for future use. About 70,000 individuals in Gaza depend on the construction sector for their livelihoods. It is one of the only sectors that have managed to thrive under closure.
According to the weekly OCHA report, international organizations are beginning to run out of construction materials they had in stock and about 18 UNDP projects covering education, health, water and electricity infrastructure are at risk.
Rafah Crossing was re-opened on Saturday after being closed for one week. Travel through the crossing remains limited to Palestinians wishing to enter the Gaza Strip and medical patients, foreign passport and residency holders and students to enter Egypt. The crossing is expected to remain open on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Saturday, Egyptian and foreign nationals, as well as medical patients were to exit Gaza through the crossing. On Sunday and Monday the crossing was to be open to medical patients, as well as individuals with foreign passport and residency status. On Wednesday and Thursday, students are expected to be allowed to exit as well.
As of late last week, the number of individuals registered for exit through the crossing was 2,900, including 345 students.
During October, Rafah Crossing was closed 51% of the time, including Fridays and holidays.
In the past two weeks hardly any goods have come through the tunnels running between Gaza and Egypt. Tobacco, olive oil and basic food supplies enter in very limited quantities. Construction materials do not enter at all, and the limited amounts of diesel that come in are being supplied to critical infrastructure.
Kerem Shalom Crossing:
In October, 5,923 truckloads of goods and fuel entered the Gaza Strip via Kerem Shalom. This figure represents a 27% increase compared to the monthly average of truckloads that entered between January and June.
During the month of October, there was a 42% increase in entries by Palestinians to Israel or the West Bank via Erez Crossing, compared to the monthly average during the first half of the year.