Five days after Israel sealed off the territory to conduct operations aimed at freeing an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian fighters, scuffles erupted at the Dwar Ansar petrol station.
Dozens of Gazans wielding jerricans and dozens of cars overrun the station after the rumour spread that it was the last one in Gaza City with any petrol left.
“One or two stations remain open in Gaza. People queue up to squeeze a few drops of petrol,” taxi driver Alaa Handukah said. “If this goes on, we don’t have much longer to work,” he added.
Several witnesses said they believed all petrol stations were closed in the southern Gaza Strip.
Power has been intermittent at best in vast swathes of the Gaza Strip since Israel destroyed a power station, and the lines at petrol stations had started growing as people increasingly relied on generators.
The Gaza Strip is home to 1.4 million residents, and is one of the most densely populated areas in the world – each square kilometre shelters an average of 2,350 Palestinians.
The Israeli army however said that the Jewish state “continues to supply the majority of electricity to the Gaza Strip and in light of the current situation has increased the amount of electricity it supplies”.
“We at UNRWA have food stockpiles for a couple of weeks… It’s easy to extrapolate that if the supply routes remain closed, we are going to run into serious difficulties”
“The current estimated amount of fuel available at gas stations stands at 1,300,000 litres,” it added in a statement.
The UN Relief and Works Agency’s Gaza chief also said that the territory’s closure had a range of negative effects on the humanitarian situation.
“We at UNRWA have food stockpiles for a couple of weeks… It’s easy to extrapolate that if the supply routes remain closed, we are going to run into serious difficulties,” John Ging said.
“We have food, but to keep distributions going we need supply corridors. With supply lines cut off, it also affects the servicing of the commercial market, making more people dependent on our aid,” Ging said.
Several aid organisations have warned of an impending humanitarian crisis if Israel does not loosen its grip on the territory.
The Gaza Strip has been stifled by frequent crossing point closures since January and further battered by the military offensive Israel launched in retaliation for the June 25 capture of 19-year-old Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit.