Gaza's fuel crisis deteriorates
Ahmed Al-Masry, a young tunnel worker said: "I used to make 40 Shekels a day for transporting fuel from the Egyptian to the Palestinian side. Although it is considered rather dangerous, I have no other option for I have to make a living. I now make nothing at all." © Rana E. Manna
Gaza's fuel crisis deteriorates
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Rana E. Manna
Last updated: October 12, 2012

Fuel crisis in Gaza deteriorates as Egypt destroys tunnels

Fears of another fuel shortage are once again growing as the Gaza Strip faces a two month-long disruption in the supply of fuel via tunnels located under the barrier that separates Egypt from the besieged Strip.

Owing to the opposition between Hamas and Egypt, which is the sole source of the territory's fuel, Gaza's 1.6 million people have experienced 18 hour blackouts per day and even the closing of gas stations around the Strip.

The situation promises a grim start of the workday on this early Saturday morning for Mohammed Adul-Fatah, a taxi-driver aged 35.

"As you can see," he said, pointing to the endless row of cars ahead of him waiting in line for gasoline or diesel, "I've been spending half of my days in lines like this one just waiting for only a scarce amount of fuel that can barely cover half my needs. I unfortunately have to go through this every single day," he added as he waited impatiently for his turn to come.

According to the Gas Stations Association in the Gaza Strip, the amount of fuel used for cars and electric generators has dropped from 600,000 liters to 200,000 liters per day.

Spending around 3 to 4 hours a day waiting in more than a quarter mile's stretch of cars at any gas station in the city, drivers are barely able to fill up half of their car tanks with cheap Egyptian fuel.

"This will certainly affect the income of many citizens; especially those with jobs that require fuel such as taxi drivers, shop-owners with backup generators etc.," said Abdul-Hadi Rajjab, the head of the General Petroleum Corporation in the Gaza Strip. 

During the crises, the Israeli fuel available in gas stations is charged at 8 shekels per liter while the Egyptian fuel that is now 4 shekels a liter was only 2 shekels during regular times.

"I can't afford to fill my car with the Israeli fuel and therefore have no choice but to spend my entire day in this line like the rest of the people for only a small amount of the Egyptian fuel," continued Mohammed.

Egypt started securing the tunnels after an attack in Sinai on August 5 when gunmen killed 16 Egyptian soldiers. Though Egypt suspects the tunnels were used by some of the militants, Hamas claims that no one from Gaza was involved in the attack.

One group whose income depends entirely on fuel is those who smuggle it through the tunnels from Egypt to Gaza Strip. While a great number of tunnel owners lost large amounts of money after the Egyptian security forces destroyed the tunnels, the tunnel workers lost their only means of income.

"I used to make 40 Shekels a day for transporting fuel from the Egyptian to the Palestinian side. Although it is considered rather dangerous, I have no other option for I have to make a living. I now make nothing at all," said Ahmed Al-Masry, a young tunnel worker.

According to the Gas Stations Association, due to the strict Egyptian security measures, the fuel smuggled to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip through tunnels with Egypt has declined in the last five days to 70 percent. Therefore, the percentage of fuel entering Gaza is only 30 percent of the Strip's needs. The fuel crisis in the coastal enclave is set to deteriorate.

Rana E. Manna is Your Middle East's Editor in Gaza.

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