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Gaza Strip Electricity Crisis Worsening, UN Official Says

  • Margaret Besheer

FILE - Palestinians chant in protest during a demonstration against the chronic power cuts in Jabaliya refugee camp, northern Gaza Strip, Jan. 12, 2017.

The U.N. envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process warned Friday that the Gaza Strip was on the brink of a violent crisis.

"In Gaza, we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open," Nickolay Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council.

"I am today warning the Security Council that unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate, the crisis risks spiraling out of control with devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike," he said via a video link.

He said an intra-Palestinian political "tug of war" between Fatah and Hamas was leading to a worsening of the humanitarian situation in Gaza, which is run by Hamas.

Gaza is also suffering from a deepening electricity crisis.

Israel has reduced electricity in Gaza to about four hours a day after the Palestinian Authority said in April it would no longer pay for it. The Palestinian Authority cut the electricity to Gaza in a bid to weaken rival Hamas, which seized control of the territory a decade ago.

Mladenov told the council that electricity to Gaza could still be cut further.

"How long do you think they can survive if this is further reduced to two hours of electricity per day?" he asked.

He said the cuts have had serious impacts, affecting the operations and capacities of already strained hospitals, as well as hemodialysis centers for people with kidney failure. Desalination plants are functioning at only 15 percent of capacity, and drinking water is supplied for only a few hours every two to four days, he said.

Sewage into the sea

There are environmental effects as well, he told council members: "As we speak, 100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea. This is the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools of sewage. Untreated. Daily."

He said it was an environmental disaster in the making for Israel, Egypt and Gaza.

Mladenov said the U.N. was working to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the crisis, but its reserves would last only a few weeks and were not a long-term solution.

He called on Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Israel to fulfill their responsibilities to the people of Gaza and address the crisis quickly.

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