Palestinian officials in the besieged Gaza Strip warned Thursday that the enclave’s only power plant will have to shut down within 48 hours if Israel’s blockade is not lifted, amid rising tension on the border area following the Israeli army arrest of an Islamic Jihad leader, Bassam Al-Saadi, on Monday.
The Israeli authorities closed all crossings to Gaza, and prevented fuel tankers from entry due to fears of reprisals. Israel has also prevented Palestinian workers from crossing into Israel and even imposed restrictions on the movement of Israeli residents in southern settlements.
Gaza residents already suffer from power outages, with electricity being available for only 10 hours per day. However, if the only power station stops, more power outages are expected, leaving millions of people who are dependent on a single source which serves the Strip, with about 120 megawatts per day from Israel.
Muhammad Thabet, Director of Public Relations and Media at the Electricity Distribution Company in the Gaza Strip, said if the Israeli closure continues for more than two days, the power station will stop operating, which will adversely impact the lives of more than two million citizens.
Egyptian mediators have intensified efforts to calm tension between Israel and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement following Al-Saadi’s arrest in the West Bank city of Jenin, during which a 17-year-old boy was also killed.
The Islamic Jihad Movement declared a state of high alert among its members, after a video recording published by Israeli media outlets appeared to show that Al-Saadi may have been injured during his arrest.
Islamic Jihad spokesman, Daoud Shehab, said “There are contacts with Egyptian officials, but there are no satisfactory results until this moment, and therefore the state of alert remains unchanged.”
Meanwhile, a Hamas spokesman, Abdul- Latif Al-Qanoua condemned the Israeli closures and said his Movement was also in talks with mediators.
“The Movement has received calls from many mediators, and we cannot remain silent about re-tightening the siege on our people again,” he said.
“We will not accept the continued closure of the crossings, the practice of collective punishment against our people, and the re-tightening of the siege on the Gaza Strip, and we will not remain silent about that,” he added.
Israeli officials have not yet commented on Al-Saadi’s arrest and indicated that the siege will remain in place as long as the Islamic Jihad’s threat remains viable.