The only power plant in the Gaza Strip closed Tuesday, leaving the territory’s 2 million inhabitants with four hours of electricity a day, after Israel cut off fuel supplies in retaliation for incendiary balloons dropped into its territory by Palestinian militants.
Tensions have grown between Israel and Hamas, the Palestinian militia that has ruled Gaza since 2007. The balloons, launched over the border by Hamas affiliates, have set crops ablaze, leading to Israeli retaliation.
Hamas is demanding, through Egyptian and Qatari mediators, that Israel ease the blockade it imposed when militants displaced their Palestinian rivals from power in 2007.
But Israel has stepped up the blockade in response to the attacks. It has closed the main commercial crossing and prohibited fishermen from going out to sea.
The closure of the generating plant further reduces the supply of electricity in the territory, which already suffered frequent widespread blackouts in midsummer. Power lines from Israel provide three to four hours of electricity to most homes.
“Many services will collapse if this crisis continues,” said Mohammed Thabet, a spokesman for the power company. He called on Israel to allow the resumption of fuel shipments paid for by Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health warned of the “dangerous consequences” for patients in intensive care units.
Hamas says Israel does not respect the agreements reached with the mediation of Egypt and Qatar, according to which the Jewish state would ease the blockade and allow the development of large-scale projects to help rescue the economy.
On Monday, Egyptian mediators went to Gaza to try to reduce tensions and prevent a new large-scale conflict between Hamas and Israel, which have fought three wars and several minor battles since 2007. They left without announcing any agreement.