The war of words between the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas government in Gaza is escalating amid the deepening electricity crisis in the Strip due to the shortage of industrial diesel to operate the local power station.
The territory's sole power plant, which provides 25 percent of its electricity, was forced to shut down over the weekend as a result of a payment dispute between Hamas and the Western-backed PA, thus increasing the blackout hours from eight to 16 a day.
The PA has blamed Hamas for not forcing tens of thousands of salaried Gazans to pay their bills and thereby share in the cost of industrial fuel for the plant.
Blackout in Gaza (Archive photo: AP)
But Hamas has pointed the finger at the PA and accused it of worsening the blockade by refusing to pay Israel for the fuel. The Islamist group claims the European Union transfers the funds for the fuel directly to Israel and that cutting the supply of fuel to Gaza was coordinated by Israel and the PA.
Hamas criticized what it said was an attempt to use electricity for political extortion.
Closing the power plant has added to Gaza's chronic power outages at a time when temperatures regularly exceed 30 degrees C (90 F), forcing residents to rely even more on diesel generators.
The industrial diesel needed to run the power plant comes through an Israeli-controlled fuel terminal, with Israel setting import quotas.
'It's a Palestinian problem'
The quantity of fuel brought in to Gaza has declined since November, when the European Commission transferred responsibility for buying the fuel to the PA after its aid program expired.
Israel supplies about 70 percent of Gaza's power and Egypt provides five percent, with the remainder coming from the power plant, which has had to shut down several times in the past because of fuel shortages.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Sunday called on the bickering Palestinian factions to resolve the crisis.
"It is such a tragedy that, on top of all the other crises that we have in the Gaza Strip, we now have a crisis of electricity," said John Ging, director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza.
"It's an unbearable situation here at the moment, and it needs to be solved very quickly. It's a Palestinian problem, made by Palestinians, and causing Palestinian suffering. So let's have a Palestinian solution," he told reporters.
Ging also called on Israel to fully lift the blockade on Gaza.
UNRWA, which provides vital aid to more than one million registered refugees in Gaza, has repeatedly decried Israel's four-year blockade of the territory but rarely extended its criticism to Gaza's Hamas rulers.
Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been fiercely divided since the Islamist movement violently seized power in Gaza in 2007.