The Gaza Marine gas agreement between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Egypt was strongly criticized by Hamas movement for striking the deal without any Gazan representation.
The dispute erupted after the Palestinian Investment Fund signed a deal to develop the Gaza Marine gas field and necessary infrastructure, with the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Company (EGAS).
However, Hamas's politburo member Mousa Abu Marzouk demanded the authority discloses details of the agreement, saying Gaza representatives should attend any negotiations about gas fields near the enclave’s shores.
Marzouk tweeted that: “if Gaza is forced to import natural gas from the occupation for the only power plant in the Strip, then we should not stand idly by as our natural resources are exported,” adding: “we need to know the details of the agreement that was signed with the Investment Authority.”
The tweet was met with anger and ridicule in Ramallah, prompting the Minister of Civil Affairs, Hussein al-Sheikh, to say that agreements are made between countries, and Palestine is a member of the EastMed Gas Forum.
“Agreements are signed with states Mr. Abu Marzouk, not with factions and organizations.”
Munir al-Jaghoub, the head of Fatah’s Information Department in the Office of Mobilization and Organization, also tweeted in response to Abu Marzook, saying that Gazan youth are the real wealth that was lost, underestimated, abandoned, and pushed to death and suicide.
“It is not permissible today to even talk about a gas canister on its way to Palestine.”
Jaghoub went on to say that it is within the powers of President Mahmoud Abbas to strike such deals, not the powers of political parties, stressing that Gaza is part of the Palestinian state and not an independent region, and Hamas is one of the 17 national factions.
The Fatah official considered Abu Marzouk’s statement as “blackmail and electoral propaganda,” or an attempt to escape the elections.
Abu Marzouk then responded by saying that the comments of some officials of the Authority are unjustified because asking for details of the agreements means transparency.
Hamas accused Fatah leaders and the PA of deluding the public, asserting that the Authority failed to fulfill any of the national aspirations of the Palestinian people, and reinforced political and geographical division.
It accused the PA of acting in an authoritarian manner.
“Our people have the right to know how the authority behaves on major issues because precedent confirms that it acts without the slightest degree of transparency, and determines its actions and relations based on narrow partisan and factional interests,” Hamas spokesperson Hazem Qassem said on Wednesday.
For years the project was a distant prospect because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the peace talks that broke down in 2014 and never resumed, amid mutual suspicion and outbreaks of violence.
But officials said that the Israeli, Palestinian, Qatari, and European interests have converged in recent weeks with the aim of getting gas flowing to Gaza in 2023.
According to Reuters, the plan would see natural gas from the Leviathan field operated by Chevron in the EastMed flow through an existing pipeline into Israel, and from there into Gaza through a proposed new extension.
Under the arrangement, the Israeli side of the pipeline would be funded by Qatar and the section in Gaza by the EU, the officials told Reuters.
If successful, the pipeline project would for the first time in years provide a steady energy source to Gaza, ending rolling blackouts that have helped cripple the economy of the blockaded enclave.
Palestinians hope Egypt will be able to pressure Israel to allow the extraction of gas, after 20 years of prevention.