Over half a million liters of industrial fuel are headed for the Gaza strip from Egypt, according to state run news agency MENA, making it one of the largest shipments since the beginning of the blockade on Gaza.
The containers travelled from Suez to Al-Awja border crossing in North Sinai on Monday.
“No legal document or agreement prevents Egypt from sending fuel to Gaza,” said Saeed Okasha, political expert at the Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, noting the legality of such a move from an international law standpoint.
“Such forms of aid to Gaza have been ongoing from the Egyptian side since the siege was started,” he added.
The increased shipment looks tied to President Mohamed Morsy’s strong relationship with Gaza’s Hamas government, but the fuel also forms part of over 5.5 million litres that have already traveled to Gaza from Egypt following a decision by the head of the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF), Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to supply Gaza with 20,000 tons of industrial fuel that has been in place since 7 June.
“Shipments rightly increased recently for two reasons,” Okasha said, “The deteriorating fuel crisis in the Gaza strip and the change in the Egyptian leadership which brought a sympathiser with Gaza to power.”
Gaza is relying on the shipments to try to overcome ongoing power cuts. Fuel shortages at the primary power plant in Gaza have resulted in power cuts stretching to as many as eight hours a day.
The fuel crisis in Gaza peaked in February, following the implementation of harsh restrictions from Egypt aimed at preventing illegal smuggling of fuel to the besieged strip.
Since the Islamist Hamas government took power in 2007, Gaza has been under blockade of goods and people by Israeli forces, with Egypt supporting the enforcement by restricting access at the Rafah border crossing.
Despite the longstanding need, the shipment is still one of the largest to date.
The Egyptian shipment had its own impact at home, with discontent over roving electrical cuts and fuel shortages sparking criticism that Morsy cares about Gaza more than he does about his own people. This is despite the fact that the decision to send fuel to Gaza was originally taken by Field Marshal Tantawi before Morsy came to power.
Okasha accused Morsy of committing the same crime committed earlier by Mubarak’s regime.
“You’re sending the fuel, which you already import, to Gaza, while you don’t have enough fuel to keep your own stations running without power cuts. Meet the needs of your own country first.”
It isn’t clear whether the fuel shipped on Monday was from sources within Egypt or a combination of donors including Qatar. In June, Qatar sent 30 million litres of fuel to Gaza through Egypt.
Ismail Heniyeh, Prime Minister of the Hamas government, met with the Egyptian leadership last week to resolve the issue of electricity shortages in Gaza. Following this meeting, Haniyeh announced that he had come to an agreement with Morsy to keep the Rafah border crossing that connects Gaza with Sinai open for 12 hours a day from 9 am to 9 pm; a 4-hour increase from the previous policy. The number of Palestinians permitted to cross the border will rise to 1,500 a day.