The Palestinian government plans to connect more areas of the Gaza Strip to the Egyptian electricity grid, the head of the Palestinian Energy Authority said Tuesday, a move that would reduce the area's reliance on Israel for power.
The proposal also would bolster Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' claim to represent Gaza, which was taken over last June by the Hamas militant group after routing Abbas' forces. Abbas now rules from the West Bank and wields little control over Gaza.
Abbas' energy chief, Omar Qattaneh, said the authority has secured financing from the Islamic Development Bank in Saudi Arabia for the $32 million project, which would be able to distribute up to 250 megawatts, or a large part of the area's needs. He said bids would be published in the coming days, and the project could be completed in 12 to 18 months.
It was not clear whether Egypt could provide this much electricity. There was no immediate comment from Egypt. Israeli defense officials also were not immediately available for comment.
Gaza currently receives most of its power from Israel, and its dependence has been highlighted by fuel and power reductions imposed by Israel last month to put economic pressure on Hamas. The sanctions are a response to repeated rocket attacks launched by Gaza militants.
Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu welcomed the proposal, despite the lingering tensions with Abbas' government. "We welcome any project that links us to our Arab brothers and ends our relations with the occupation," he said. He said Hamas officials also have raised the idea with Egypt of boosting power supplies to Gaza.