Fuel shortage forces Gaza blackout

GAZA (Reuters) – A fuel shortage forced the Gaza Strip’s main power station to shut down on Saturday, leaving much of the Hamas-controlled territory without electricity, a senior official at the generating plant said.

“We are shutting down because we have run out of fuel … we cannot meet the demand for electricity,” said the official who did not want to be named.

An Israeli official said fuel shipments would resume on Sunday, adding there had not been any deliveries for a few due to Israel’s independence day celebrations and because of repeated militant mortar attacks on the supply point.

Gaza has been facing a fuel shortage in recent months because of Israeli restrictions on supplies. Fuel for the power plant which supplies electricity to 800,000 of the strip’s 1.5 million people, is funded by the European Union.

“We will be delivering fuel again tomorrow, we do so most days (but there was a halt) because of the holiday and because a number of mortars were launched at the area,” the Israeli official said.

He added that militants were continuing to fire mortars at the Nahal Oz supply depot on the Israeli border “almost daily”.

A spokesman in Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said Hamas had cut the power deliberately in order to further stoke anti-Israeli sentiments in the Gaza Strip.

“There is no logical reason for the shutdown, this is another example of Hamas orchestrating an artificial crisis for its own political aims, showing complete disregard for the wellbeing of the Palestinian people,” spokesman David Baker said.

Israel cut back fuel supplies sharply after Palestinian militants attacked the Nahal Oz depot last month killing two Israeli civilians.

On Friday, a mortar fired from the Gaza Strip killed an Israeli civilian. Later, a series of Israeli air strikes killed five Hamas security men in the Hamas-controlled enclave.

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