Those following the weekly charts on Gaza Gateway might have been surprised to discover that the amount of industrial diesel transferred from Israel to the Gaza Strip has been nil for some weeks now. The fuel, needed to operate Gaza’s power plant, is usually transferred via the Kerem Shalom crossing, though lately, you would only find its low grade cousin, regular diesel, coming in through the tunnels in the Rafah area in the southern Gaza Strip, from Egypt and via coordination with the Gaza government, which collects taxes on it. The change of transfer point did not occur overnight but rather as a result of a, by now, three-year policy on the part of Israel and recently given a stamp of approval by the Turkel Commission, to reduce the transfer of industrial diesel to Gaza. The change also came about as a result of a funding dispute between the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the government in Gaza which caused suppliers to seek out more cost efficient methods to supply the fuel.
The transfer of diesel through the tunnels reduces the electricity shortage in Gaza but does not resolve the problem. The power plant still needs industrial diesel, which is mixed with regular diesel coming from Egypt in order to reduce the amount of sulfur emitted from the production process. In these new circumstances, power outages have shortened but still occur for an average of six hours a day, posing hardship for Gaza residents. True to today, the plant is producing about 60 MW of energy, while the total electricity deficit in the Strip stands at 80 MW.
As far as underground economies go, the Egyptian channel is not reliable. Last week there was a drop in transfer of goods from Egypt due to recent events there, casting doubt on the stability of the diesel supply to the Gaza power plant. When the tunnels are operating, the government in Gaza coordinates the transfer of fuel and collects taxes on it (NIS 0.60 per liter of diesel that costs the merchants bringing it in less than one shekel). Based on these figures one can only wonder about the conclusion of the Turkel Commission, which legitimized Israel’s restriction on diesel transferred to the power plant, stating that these restrictions were an instrument to promote Israel’s military objective of harming “Hamas’s capacity, including its military capacity, to continue attacking Israel”.