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Israel fuel deliveries to Gaza to resume

Ministry says diesel to be delivered after lack of fuel forced closure of Palestinian enclave's only power plant.

Last updated: 16 Mar 2014 20:53
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Israel is to allow the resumption of diesel deliveries into Gaza, a day after the territory's sole power plant stopped working due to a lack of fuel, officials have said.

The announcement on Sunday came after the Defence Ministry had shut down the Kerem Shalom goods crossing into southern Gaza on Thursday following cross-border fire.

The latest violence started after Israel killed three men associated with the Islamic Jihad armed group. Palestinian fighters then fired scores of rockets over the border, although no one was injured.  

Israel hit back with air strikes, which also caused no injuries, halting all deliveries, including fuel. The power station halted operation on Saturday.

The Israeli government on Saturday denied it was cutting off fuel supplies, and said the source of the shortage was an internal conflict between the Hamas government and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.

Gaza power dwindles after crossing closes

The fuel deliveries were to resume on Sunday following an order from the Defence Ministry, a statement from COGAT, the unit responsible for crossings into Gaza, said.

"Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon.. instructed to open the Kerem Shalom crossing for the transition of gas into the Gaza Strip," it said.

"The amount coordinated for today... is 500,000 litres of diesel and gasoline for the private sector, 160,000 tonnes of cooking gas, and 200,000 litres of diesel for the operation of the power plant in Gaza," it said.

Rafik Maliha, director of Gaza's only power plant, told Al Jazeera that whatever fuel is expected to come only covers the "bare minimum."

"When this power plant is in complete shutdown that means there is only six hours of electricity supply for the consumers of Gaza," Maliha said.

"[Now] we will have partial operation of the power plant [which will] make the schedule to eight hours of power supply instead of six."

Daily blackouts

The power plant, which supplies about 30 percent of Gaza's electricity needs, stopped operating for 50 days in the latter part of 2013 due to lack of fuel, but resumed operations in late December.

Israel routinely closes the crossing in response to rocket fire or other violence in and around Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Stephanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said that the power fuel shortages are contributing to an "already incredibly difficult" situation as Gaza faces one of the worst economic woes in recent years.

"Prices have risen, many employees of the Hamas government are not getting their salaries [or only] partially, people will tell you that it is the hardest time in a long time and Hamas is said to be facing the most difficult financial crisis in years," she said.

The fuel is purchased from Israel by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority which also facilitates delivery because the territory's Hamas rulers do not recognise Israel and do not have any direct dealings with its officials.

Gaza residents have endured hours of daily blackouts in recent years because of fuel shortages.

Although Israeli forces withdrew from Gaza in 2005, they have maintained a blockade on the territory.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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