Gaza faces possible blackout as Israeli blockade continues for third day
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Gaza’s only power plant will have to be shut down within 48 hours if an Israeli-imposed blockade is not lifted, officials warned Thursday, as border tensions simmered after the arrest of a leader Palestinian militant
Israeli authorities have closed all crossings into Gaza, cutting off access to the fuel trunks that supply the plant, amid fears of reprisal attacks following Monday’s arrest of Bassam Al-Saadi, a senior leader of the group the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Already facing outages that leave them with just 10 hours of electricity a day, Gaza residents would face further blackouts if the plant were to stop operating, leaving the enclave’s only source of external power with a daily supply of 120 megawatts that comes from Israel.
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“This would have a serious impact on the daily lives of more than 2 million people and on vital services,” said Mohammad Thabit of the Gaza Power Distribution Company.
In addition to halting the transport of goods and aid to Gaza, the shutdown, which entered its third day on Thursday, has also prevented workers from crossing into Israel. Residents on the Israeli side have complained of movement restrictions.
Egyptian mediators stepped up efforts with Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad to reduce tensions after Saadi’s arrest during a raid in the West Bank city of Jenin that killed a 17-year-old Islamic Jihad member .
The militant group declared full alert among its fighters, implying a threat of imminent reprisals, after footage circulating in Israeli media appeared to show Saadi may have been injured during his arrest.
“We are in contact with Egyptian officials, but so far there is no satisfactory result, so the state of full alert remains,” said Islamic Jihad spokesman Daoud Shehab.
Abdel-Latif Al-Qanoua, a spokesman for Hamas, the militant group that rules Gaza, condemned Israel’s closures and said his group had also been in talks with mediators.
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“We will not accept the continued closure of crossings and the policy of collective punishment,” he said.
Israeli officials have so far not commented on the circumstances surrounding Saadi’s arrest and have suggested the blockade will remain in place as long as the threat from Islamic Jihad persists.