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Gaza residents hit by heatwave and lengthy power cuts

A Palestinian girl washes her face to cool off during a heatwave in Gaza on 19 May 2020 [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images]
A Palestinian girl washes her face to cool off during a heatwave in Gaza on 19 May 2020 [MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images]

Palestinians living in the overcrowded Gaza Strip are reeling in a heatwave made worse by power cuts that leave them without electricity for as long as ten hours a day, Reuters has reported. Residents complain of not being able to sleep because there is no electricity to power fans.

More than 2.3 million people are packed into the narrow strip of land squeezed between Egypt and Israel, an area that would normally require around 500 megawatts of power per day in summer, according to local officials. Gaza actually receives 120 megawatts from Israel while the enclave's lone power plant supplies another 60 megawatts.

Mohammad Thabit of Gaza's power distribution company said in April that, with moderate weather, they could supply twenty hours of electricity per day. However, the capacity of the power plant has been impacted by greater demand due to the high temperatures and soaring energy prices.

Money for the fuel to operate the power plant comes from Qatar, which buys it from Israel for $10 million, but rising fuel prices have left the local company with a shortfall of around $3m.

READ: Palestine needs immediate attention to stave off a major food crisis

Power shortages have continued to generate discontent with the ruling Islamist group Hamas, which has run the territory since winning the 2006 legislative election. The movement points to a 15-year-long Israeli blockade which has devastated Gaza's economy.

While some Gaza homes and businesses rely on generators to overcome the lengthy power cuts, those who cannot afford them use humble battery-powered led lights instead. One retailer said that although the summer heat made cooling devices more necessary, tough economic conditions made people "prefer to adopt to cheaper alternatives" or fix what they already have at home.

In the sweltering heat, public swimming pools charge around $2. The alternative is to go to the beach, the only free entertainment option for most Palestinians in Gaza.

Gaza electricity crisis - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

Gaza electricity crisis – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/MiddleEastMonitor]

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