A family warm themselves with a fire outside their makeshift house during a power cut in a poor neighborhood in town of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. File picture: Khalil Hamra/AP

Gaza – Gaza has been plunged into darkness after the last operating power plant in the coastal territory was turned off late Wednesday due to a severe shortage of fuel

Officials at the Hamas-run power corporation said they had turned off the last operating turbine at the plant in southern Gaza city, the German news agency DPA reported late Wednesday night.

More than two million residents, crammed into an area 365km² and one of the most densely populated areas in the world, have been living under an Israeli and Egyptian siege for 10 years after the Islamist group Hamas took control of the territory in 2007.

The siege, involving restrictions in the import of fuel and electricity and other necessities, has made it difficult for hospitals, and desalination and sewerage plants to operate, leading to a shortage of drinking water.

Gaza’s infrastructure, decimated by several wars between Hamas and Israel, is barely functioning due to a shortage of parts needed for repair and the restrictions on their import.

During the last few months the critical humanitarian situation on the ground has been exacerbated by a power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) which nominally controls the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas, in conjunction with the Israelis, has reduced payment for Gaza’s electricity, limited exit permits for chronically ill Palestinians requiring medical treatment abroad, forced early retirement on 6 000 civil servants while reducing the salaries of others, and limited the supply of baby formula and medicine to Gaza – in a desperate attempt to pressure Hamas politically.

As Gaza faced a blackout two weeks ago, Egypt, whose relationship with Hamas has recently improved, stepped in an supplied four million litres of fuel to operate the power plant.

However, this was insufficient to meet the increasing energy crisis.

In a report "Gaza Ten Years Later", released two days ago by the United Nations, the agency warned that the humanitarian situation on the ground had deteriorated even faster than it predicted when it warned in 2012 that the coastal territory would be unliveable by 2020.

“On the ground, life for the average Palestinian in Gaza is getting more and more wretched,” wrote Robert Piper, the UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid and Development Activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“This year, electricity is the most visible deterioration in the living conditions in Gaza but it comes on top of a host of other chronic and acute problems that have become part of ‘normal’ life,” stated Piper.

An 11-year-old child has not experienced more than 12 hours of electricity in a single day in his/her lifetime.

No one remembers a time in recent memory when drinkable water reliably appeared out of the tap.

Memories of ease of movement in and out of the Strip are also increasingly distant.

In 2012, the UN Country Team produced a report on living conditions in Gaza and predicted that based on the trends being seen then, Gaza was on track to become ‘unliveable’ by 2020.

“Sadly, as we check-in on those same trends again in this 2017 report, the deterioration has accelerated, sped-along, not least by a devastating round of hostilities in 2014, from which we are only now starting to recover,” stated Piper.

“In my fortnightly visits to Gaza I am constantly amazed at the resilience of a people who manage to get by despite such odds. For most of us, with electricity only two hours a day as was the case recently, and youth unemployment at 60 percent, the ‘unliveability’ threshold has already been passed.

“Yet, somehow, families in Gaza find ways to ‘make do’. But this does not change the fact that it is profoundly unjust and inhuman to put Gaza’s civilians through such an ordeal. And still there is no end in sight, 10 years after the dramatic events of 2006-2007 that left the Strip closed, isolated and divided from the West Bank.

“Life in Gaza has been in perpetual crisis, ever since.”