(photo credit: )
This past Monday, gas stations in Gaza apparently decided to hold a "protest strike" in which they refused to sell fuel to the local populace.
At the same time, a program on Hamas radio was broadcast urging Gazans to call in with suggestions for alternative means of transportation to cars and buses.
Sure enough, the next day saw several news stories coming out of Gaza reporting on the "fuel crisis" there, focusing on the travails of ordinary Gazans due to "months of restricted Israeli fuel supplies."
A taxi driver comments to an AP reporter: "We are like street dogs looking for bones"; another is quoted as calling into that Hamas radio program to say, "My friend and I hired a donkey for $5 and tied it next to the university because we couldn't find a taxi."
Nice color, as we say in the journalism business.
And then, on Wednesday, Gazan terror groups stage a carefully coordinated attack on the Nahal Oz fuel depot in which two Israeli civilian workers are killed.
"This [Israeli] fuel is dipped in humiliation" because people wait for it for hours, declared an Islamic Jihad spokesman at a post-attack press conference, adding, "If their fuel means humiliation for us, we don't want it."
It is certainly a remarkable coincidence that an attack such as the one on the Nahal Oz depot - which must have taken weeks, if not months, of planning and preparation - should fall just two days after a seemingly spontaneous and independent strike by local gas station owners.
Of course, one would have to believe in this case that the station owners were given the freedom to shut down by a Hamas government that carefully controls every other aspect of daily life in Gaza.
Or that it would sincerely ask residents to openly suggest alternative transportation to private cars or cabs, without actually doing anything to make such arrangements for the public.
Another interpretation might conclude that just as with the "blackout" crisis last January, a deliberate aggravating of the fuel situation in Gaza was arranged by its Hamas rulers in the days leading up to the Nahal Oz attack, which itself naturally led to a temporary suspension of the fuel supplies.
Normally, some 75,400 liters of gasoline, 800,000 liters of diesel fuel and 2.2 million liters of industrial fuel for Gaza City's electrical power plant move through Nahal Oz into Gaza. All this fuel may be "dipped in humiliation," yet according to the Israeli government, Wednesday's attack conveniently took place just after the latest delivery for the Gaza power station had been completed.
Hamas claims this capacity meets about one-third of the fuel needs of Gaza. Yet this is no small amount for a territory, even one as densely populated as Gaza, which measures no more than 50 kilometers from north to south at its longest point, and 11 km. from east to west.
And it appears that not everyone there is suffering from a lack of gasoline. China's Xinhua news agency seemed to stray from the approved script this week in registering complaints by station owners that Hamas was taking a cut of the fuel supplies before releasing the rest to the general public.
"They seize the fuel to ensure that their cars will not stop and that [Hamas leader Ismail] Haniyeh's convoy will continue to work," one disgruntled driver told Xinhua, whose report also noticed that "instead of lining up for fuel supply, vehicles of Hamas police and security services bypass the long queues and go straight to the electric fuel pump."
Certainly, the teams that continue to fire the Kassam rockets seem to have no problem finding gas for their vehicles - nor did the terrorists who were killed fleeing the scene of the Nahal Oz attack in a car that was successfully targeted by an Israel Air Force helicopter.
In Gaza, the price of one liter of gas is approximately NIS 6, which is comparable, or even slightly less expensive, than the average cost in Israel. Of course, ordinary Gazans earn far less than Israelis, if they earn at all. Yet according to reports, someone there is still able to pay upward of 10 times the price in order to buy gas on what is apparently a thriving black market.
Strangely enough, a Hamas regime that claims to have effectively cracked down on all other sorts of criminal activity since taking power - such as drug smuggling and prostitution - has somehow been unable to curb this black market activity, presumably carried out by some of the same criminal clans with which it collaborates on terror activities.
The AP report earlier this week quoted a Hamas policeman claiming: "I couldn't find a taxi to get to work... I'll walk if I have to. We won't die from a fuel shortage."
Surely not, if Israel continues to supply Gaza with the current level of fuel supplies generously being funded by the European Union.
But Israelis are certainly dying in attacks that in part are being made possible by that gas. And in the meantime, Gaza's Hamas rulers cynically increase and exploit the suffering of its own people to fuel a campaign designed to pressure Israel and the international community into letting it freely build a conclave of Islamic repression and terror on this country's southern borders.