"As soon as the necessary quantities of fuel oil arrive, we will restart the turbines," Rafiq Maliha told Al Jazeera. "We need at least four hours to do it."

 

The supply of fuel, however, is unpredictable.

 

"The problem we face right now is that we have no reserve. And since we have no reserve, we have no plan. Simply, if we receive sufficient fuel continuously, we will operate this plant. But if the supply stops, we will not be able to manage our production."

 

Rafah protests

 

Egyptian security forces meanwhile fired in the air and used clubs and water cannons on Tuesday to disperse hundreds of Palestinian women protesters who had tried to force open the Rafah border crossing, Gaza's only one bypassing Israel.

 

Eyewitnesses said the women surged across the border from Gaza in a protest to back their demands for the frontier to be opened for shipments of food and essential provisions, in short supply due to Israel's closure of its borders with the coastal strip.

 

Dozens of women had approached the main entryway of the border terminal and tried to force it open, causing the Egyptian security forces to use water cannons to push them back.

 

At least 15 protesters were injured as Egyptian police used force to push them back.

 

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, called on Israel on Tuesday to fully lift the blockade, calling a partial easing of the lockdown "insufficient".

  

"This is insufficient and we will continue our efforts to get a total lifting of the blockade," Abbas told reporters in the West Bank town of Ramallah after talks with Maxime Verhagen, the visiting Dutch foreign minister.

  

Abbas also renewed his criticism of rocket fire against Israel from Gaza.

  

"It is not the people who fire these rockets," Abbas said. "We have condemned these futile launchings in the past and we continue to do so. They must stop." 

 

International concern

 

The impact of the blockade, which has left homes in the dark, affected hospitals and caused sewage to flood the streets, has sparked international condemnation.

 

On Monday, the European Union accused Israel of the "collective punishment" of Gaza's civilian population.

 

Kyriacos Triantaphyllides, a European parliament member, told Al Jazeera: "What is happening there [in Gaza] is a major catastrophe on very big scale and it is not enough just to lift the blockade for a little while.

 

"I think the action of Israel against Gaza, which constitutes collective punishment for the whole people of Gaza, is to be deplored by the international community. We do not agree with this kind of measures.

 

"I think the international community should make it absolutely clear to the Israelis that if they wish the peace process to go ahead, they should stop these tactics, which can only bring catastrophe and perhaps an end to peace process."

 

The United Nations had warned that it would be forced to stop distributing food aid to hundreds of thousands of people within days if the lockdown continued.

  

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The UN Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting later on Tuesday to discuss the situation following a request from Arab states.

  

The Israeli defence minister had ordered the easing of the blockade late on Monday. He gave permission for fuel deliveries for the power station on Tuesday.

 

"This will be enough for an unspecified period, depending on the needs of the Gaza Strip," a defence ministry spokesman told AFP.

  

Medicine and "essential goods of a humanitarian nature" would be trucked in on Wednesday, the spokesman added.

  

Aryeh Mekel, the foreign ministry spokesman, said the fuel deliveries would total 2.2 million litres, which "should be enough for the power plant to run for a week".

  

He said 50 truckloads of humanitarian aid would be allowed in, carrying basic food and medicines. Thirteen of the trucks would contain aid supplied by Jordan. 

  

The easing of the blockade was welcomed by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas leader, from his base in exile in Damascus.

  

Meshaal stressed however that the movement, which took control of Gaza after a week of deadly clashes against rival faction Fatah last June, remained committed to the armed struggle against Israel.