Israel to resume fuel supplies to Gaza

Claims Hamas creating artificial fuel crisis; liaision officer says 800,000 liters of oil in Gaza Strip.

Gaza power station 224.8 (photo credit: AP)
Gaza power station 224.8
(photo credit: AP)
Israel plans to transfer fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip via the Nahal Oz depot within the "next couple of days," a government official told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night. Israel also dismissed as "Hamas spin" Palestinian claims that fuel was running low and that electricity supplies in Gaza would have to be cut. The director of Gaza's only power plant, Rafik Maliha, warned on Saturday that the installation would be shut down in two to three days unless Israel resumed fuel shipments. He cautioned that half a million Gazans would be left without electricity. Israel halted supplies last week after Gaza terrorists attacked the Nahal Oz fuel depot on the border, killing Oleg Lipson and Lev Cherniak, employees of the Dor Alon energy company. According to Israeli officials, the claim that fuel supplies were running low in Gaza was untrue. Sixty percent of the Strip's electricity comes in power lines from the Israeli grid via the Ashkelon plant. Another 10% comes from Egypt. Both these supplies are continuing unhindered. Two days prior to the Nahal Oz attack last Wednesday, Gaza's fuel distributors stopped distributing all fuel to protest Israel's reduced petrol supplies to the territory. The Gas Station Owners' Association in Gaza said it hoped the move would pressure Israel to supply more fuel. Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel told the Post, "This is malicious cynicism on the part of Hamas to allow a terrorist attack in which two Israeli civilians are killed, and then to immediately complain if Israel cuts fuel supplies as a result." Mekel said a security assessment was still taking place but stressed that it was not Israeli policy to cut off fuel supplies, and that Israel would not allow a humanitarian crisis to develop in the Gaza Strip. The Gaza power plant's fuel reserves have been low in recent months, after Israel restricted fuel supplies in hopes of forcing terrorists to halt rocket attacks from Gaza. Hamas was instigating a fuel crisis in Gaza and was harming Palestinian civilians as part of a propaganda effort aimed at deflecting pressure away from itself onto Israel, the IDF said in a statement on Saturday evening. Malikha's claim that the Gaza plant was suffering from a fuel shortage was dismissed by Col. Nir Press, head of the IDF's Coordination and Liaison Administration at Erez. "The State of Israel has continued to transfer fuel into the Gaza Strip in a continuous manner in the recent period," said Press. "In the past two weeks, we have seen Palestinian activity aimed at instigating a crisis in the fuel sector through planned strikes and protests," Press continued. "The closed fuel stations in Gaza and the long lines of vehicles and people waiting long hours to fill their cars are the product of Hamas activity and a planned media campaign, which comes at the expense of [Gazan] residents." The "crisis" has "been caused by a failure to gather fuel on the Palestinian side of the Nahal Oz depot," Press said. "For the past two weeks, fuel on the Palestinian side of Nahal Oz could have been gathered and distributed to gas stations, but this has not happened… as of today, 188,000 liters of gasoline and over 800,000 liters of diesel fuel are sitting in containers on the Palestinian side," he added. "Hamas is deliberately harming civilians in Gaza by refusing to allow the fuel to be gathered and distributed to gas stations for humanitarian needs." The Coordination and Liaison Administration said 2,200,000 liters of diesel fuel and fuel oil is transferred to the Gaza power plant every week. An unlimited amount of cooking gas, 800,000 liters of diesel fuel and 75,000 liters of gasoline cross into Gaza every week, the administration added. "The diesel fuel and gasoline which Israel transfers to Gaza is intended first and foremost for ambulances, operating water pumps, sewage treatment systems and the running of generators in institutions such as hospitals, schools, medical clinics, agricultural needs, vehicles, school rides, food trucks [and] garbage collection," the statement said. Wednesday's terrorist attack on the fuel depot was "further proof of the terrorism directed from the Gaza Strip at Israel, directed at crossings which serve the Palestinians, and at Israeli civilians who were working for the welfare of Palestinians," Press said. Meanwhile, the Popular Resistance Committees warned Saturday that a "volcano" was set to erupt at any moment due to the Gaza blockade. The terror organization also condemned Arab and Muslim countries for their silence over the Gazans' predicament. Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Taher a-Nunu, said the Hamas government supported the decision of the Palestinian people to end the blockade but stressed that there were those interested in perpetuating the crisis and keeping Gaza shut. At Sunday's meeting the cabinet will be asked to approve permits for 5,000 additional Palestinians to work in Israel. If approved, the laborers will work in the construction industry and the permits will be granted immediately. The gesture comes in response to a request from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is due to meet on Sunday with Gen. James Jones, the US security coordinator to the region. The talks will focus on Israeli measures to ease the plight of Palestinians in the West Bank. Last month Barak promised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during talks in Jerusalem that Israel would remove 50 West Bank roadblocks. However, Palestinian officials have complained since then that nearly all the barriers in question were dirt mounds on minor roads, and that Israeli actions have failed to significantly improve access and movement for Palestinians traveling in the West Bank.