Last-minute diesel supply averts Gaza blackout

UN envoy says Israeli policy "to collectively punish population has failed."

gaza fuel 224 88 (photo credit: AP)
gaza fuel 224 88
(photo credit: AP)
A shutdown of Gaza's sole power plant was averted on Wednesday after Israel began pumping diesel fuel into the Gaza Strip via the Nahal Oz fuel depot. The Defense Ministry decided to send one million liters of diesel fuel to Gaza after the Palestinians claimed that the power plant would otherwise shut down by the end of the day. Mujahed Salameh, head of the Palestinian fuel authority in Ramallah, said one million liters was enough to power the plant for three days. Israel last transferred fuel to Gaza last week, but had decided to stop the supplies in response to the Islamic Jihad attack on the Nahal Oz depot two weeks ago that killed two Israeli truck drivers. The Gaza plant generates one-third of the territory's power supply, and Israel's electricity utility supplies most of the rest. No gasoline has been sent in since the attack, and the head of UN relief operations in Gaza said Wednesday that Israel must supply vehicle fuel to Gaza immediately or the UN would not be able to distribute aid supplies to residents. John Ging, chief of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, said Wednesday that the agency's supply of gasoline would run out Thursday. Some 860,000 of Gaza's 1.4 million people receive basic foodstuffs from UNWRA, and an additional 270,000 are served by the World Food Program. Ging acknowledged the "complicated fuel situation," but said Israel "must provide enough fuel for daily needs." UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said in a press conference in Gaza that it was wrong of Israel to "punish the civilian population" for the recent attacks on the crossings, the last of which occurred this past Saturday when Hamas smuggled two car bombs into the Kerem Shalom crossing. "I call on Israel to restore fuel supplies to Gaza and to allow the passage of humanitarian assistance and commercial supplies, sufficient to allow the functioning of all basic services and for Palestinians to live their daily lives," Serry said. "The collective punishment of the population of Gaza, which has been instituted for months now, has failed." Serry condemned attacks against the crossings, which he said did not contribute to easing the blockade on Gaza but had the opposite effect. "The UN has repeatedly condemned the killing of civilians by Israeli military operations here in Gaza," he said. "We have also repeatedly condemned deliberate attacks on civilians at crossings or by the firing of rockets into Israel. Not just because they bring nothing but misery to Palestinians, but because all attacks on civilians are wrong." AP contributed to this report.