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Egypt ‘promises fuel’ for Gaza power plant

(AFP) / 19 February 2012

GAZA CITY— Egypt has promised to provide diesel fuel for the Gaza Strip’s sole power plant, which shut down this week after running out of fuel, a Gaza official said on Saturday.

“Following our contacts with Egyptian officials, there have been serious promises to furnish us fuel from tomorrow (Sunday),” said Ahmad Abu al-Amrin of the Gaza energy authority.

To highlight the sense of urgency, dozens of Palestinian medical personnel held a sit-in at Gaza’s Rafah crossing into Egypt, urging Cairo’s immediate intervention.

The power plant, which supplies around a third of Gaza’s electricity, suffers frequent outages, leading to daily blackouts across the Hamas-run territory.

When it went down on Tuesday, Amrin said he had called on Egypt “to assume its historical responsibility in supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people by ensuring they had all the necessary fuel to operate the plant.”

According to the UN agency for humanitarian affairs, OCHA, the amount of fuel being transported through tunnels from Egypt to Gaza has dropped by half over the past fortnight, reportedly due to increased restrictions on the movement of fuel by Egyptian police.

Gaza’s Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya also urged Egypt to help, issuing a statement calling on Cairo to “immediately intervene and meet all the electricity needs of Gaza in a permanent way,” warning that the territory was facing a “real humanitarian crisis.”

Health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qader told AFP the power cuts were endangering the lives of hospital patients, particularly those on dialysis, coronary support and in intensive care.

At Saturday’s sit-in, the medical personnel issued a statement urging Egypt, “in the name of all patients, to assume your responsibilities and respond to our call for aid.”

Oxfam warned that the diminished fuel supplies to Gaza were “inching” it “towards a total collapse of essential services,” and said that only an end to the blockade on the Hamas-run territory would solve its electricity’s shortage. “What we are witnessing now with the fuel crisis in Gaza proves that the tunnels are not a sustainable solution to the blockade,” regional director of the British charity Catherine Essoyan said in a statement.

“If we want to solve the electricity crisis once and for all we need a full and consistent opening of all of Gaza’s crossings in accordance with international law.”

Israel imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in 2006 following the capture of one of its soldiers in June that year.

The blockade was tightened a year later after Hamas’s forcible takeover of the territory, and Israel began restricting the amounts of fuel allowed through the crossings.

In a bid to prevent the impending humanitarian crisis, General Eitan Dangot, head of COGAT — the Israeli military body in charge of civilian aspects of life in the Israeli controlled parts of the West Bank — has in recent days offered senior officials in the Palestinian Authority fuel that they would transfer to Gaza, COGAT spokesman Guy Inbar told AFP.

According to Inbar, the Palestinian officials declined the offer.

 

 

 
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