By Ibrahim Barzak / AP
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip: Small amounts of Israeli fuel were trucked into the Gaza Strip on Friday, slightly easing an energy crisis provoked by a cut-off of Egyptian fuel, Palestinian and Israeli officials said.
The shipment however did not meet Gaza’s total energy needs for even one day, one official said, and the territory still lacks a reliable fuel supply. Gaza’s fuel pinch highlights the difficulties its cash-strapped, internationally isolated Hamas rulers face in administering the territory.
Brig. Gen. Nazmi Muhana, head of the Palestinian Authority border agency in the West Bank, and Israeli military spokesman Maj. Guy Inbar said 450,000 liters (120,000 gallons) of diesel fuel entered through an Israeli crossing.
Gaza health official Adham Abu Salmia said the supplies were enough to power the territory’s only electricity plant for a single day.
“This is no solution,” Abu Salmia said, noting that no fuel had arrived to power cars, trucks or hospitals’ backup generators. Ambulance and fire services were still facing severe gas shortages, he added.
The fuel was purchased from Israel by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, which claims control of Gaza but in effect has had no influence there since Hamas militants overran the territory in 2007.
Israel and Hamas shun each other, but the Palestinian Authority, which is governed by President Mahmoud Abbas, maintains ties with the Israelis.
For weeks, Gaza’s 1.6 million people have endured 18-hour-a-day blackouts because of tensions between Hamas and Egypt, for the past year or so the sole source of the territory’s fuel.
More than a year ago, Hamas decided to power Gaza’s only power plant with smuggled fuel from Egypt, rather than pay the Palestinian Authority for more expensive Israeli fuel, as it had done in the past. But Egypt started cutting off the supplies weeks ago because it was suffering shortages itself.
More deeply, however, the energy spat reflects Egypt’s troubled relationship with Hamas and its long-standing deep ambivalence toward Gaza itself.
Hamas had hoped to leverage the crisis into getting Egypt to open a direct trade route with Gaza, with the aim of stabilizing its rule over the territory.
But Egypt refused, wanting to keep Gaza at arms’ length, and to avoid absolving Israel from continuing responsibility for the crowded, impoverished slice of Mediterranean coast.
Israel withdrew soldiers and settlers from Gaza in 2005, after a 38-year military occupation, but still controls access by air and sea — and, except for a kilometers-long (miles-long) border with Egypt, by land.
Inbar said the Palestinian Authority contracted with Israeli energy company Dor Alon to supply the fuel, and asked Israel to coordinate its movement.
Although the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing between Israel and Gaza ordinarily is closed on Friday, Israel made an exception and opened it “because of the grave situation in Gaza,” Inbar said.
Hamas staged protests Friday that drew tens of thousands of people across Gaza to urge Egypt to let the flow of its fuel resume.
“We call on our brothers in Egypt … to extend their hand to their brothers in Gaza and to supply Gaza with fuel and to open the border with Gaza,” said Hamas spokesman Mushir Al-Masri at the protest in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliyah.