Ramallah: The Gaza Strip is currently experiencing a severe shortage of cooking gas, and the problem is expected to worsen dramatically as winter heating requirements increase demand.
According to Noor Al Khazendar, who heads the cooking gas committee at the Association of Owners of Oil and Gas Companies, the coastal strip is currently experiencing a 60 per cent shortage in supply.
“The Gaza Strip requires between 400 and 450 tons of gas a day. However, Israel is currently only allocating between 200 and 250 tons daily,” Khazendar told Gulf News. “In winter, public demand increases sharply, especially for poultry farms and the companies which need to provide heating for such farms, failing which the farmers will suffer heavy losses.”
Khazendar noted that Israel only allows gas to enter Gaza via the Karm Abu Salem Crossing, and to add insult to injury, this crossing is closed on Fridays and Saturdays, putting even more pressure on supply.
“The Gaza Strip is headed for serious tragedy should the status quo regarding the gas needs remains unchanged,” said Khazendar. “We have urged the relevant Palestinian authorities within the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to intervene urgently to prevent an imminent tragedy.
“Tens of thousands of empty cooking gas cylinders have piled up at the distributors, who are unable to fill them,” he warned. “Rain is expected in Palestine within a week, which will see long queues forming at distributors’ doorsteps.”
For the time being, cooking gas cylinders are being sold in Gaza for 54 Shekels (Dh51), and the Hamas authorities have been carefully monitoring the situation to ensure that there is no price manipulation by the gas distributors.
“A black market is expected to emerge in Gaza very soon, which is likely to result in residents paying up to double the legal price for their gas requirements,” Khazendar said. “To date, neither Hamas nor the PNA has come up with a plan to deal with the gas shortage on the coastal strip, and Gazans might be left with no means to warm up during the cold winter.”
The Islamist movement of Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, after a brief civil war which ended with the ousting of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his forces. Since then, Israel has imposed a land, maritime and air siege on the coastal strip, and Gaza has been subjected to three Israeli aggressions which resulted in the deaths and injuries of thousands of Palestinians, as well as the destruction of thousands of Gazan homes. Last year, the United Nations warned that Gaza may become uninhabitable by 2020 if there is no change in the economic situation. Gaza’s power lines and the territory’s sole power plant were hit during the war, leading to rolling power cuts of 12-18 hours a day on an electricity grid capable of supplying only half of the territory’s needs. The power shortage has hobbled Gaza’s sewage treatment plant, sending about 24 million gallons of raw sewage into the sea daily and creating a stifling stench along the coast.