Israel halts Gaza fuel after depot attack

GAZA (Reuters) – Israel suspended fuel deliveries to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on Wednesday after a mortar fired by Palestinian militants struck the territory’s only fuel depot, wounding a Palestinian worker.

Israel blamed Islamist Hamas, which opposes coexistence with the Jewish state, for the attack on Nahal Oz border crossing. But Hamas issued a rare denial of involvement and said it would try to halt Palestinian fire against Gaza’s imports conduits.

“Fuel deliveries were frozen after the mortar hit,” said Gil Karie, a spokesman for the Israeli District Coordination Office, which oversees deliveries to Gaza.

“They are checking the situation … We don’t know yet if it will open again today, or at what time.”

Deliveries of European Union-funded fuel to Gaza’s sole power station were not affected because no deliveries had been scheduled for Wednesday, an EU official said.

Israel has reduced supplies to Gaza since Hamas routed the forces of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to take over the coastal territory in June 2007. Israel has suspended fuel deliveries in the past after militant attacks.

“The Hamas-led terror organizations have once again attacked a vital fuel depot, which is crucial for the humanitarian needs of the Palestinians, thus showing their total disregard for the well-being of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip,” said David Baker, an Israeli government spokesman.

Hamas fighters have attacked sites on the Gaza border before, describing such operations as response to Israeli military actions, but the faction denied Wednesday’s shelling.

The Hamas-run Interior Ministry said in a statement it “condemns the targeting this morning of the fuel pipeline during the delivery of quantities of cooking gas into Gaza”.

“The ministry will try to formulate a united position with Palestinian factions to exclude crossings and the interests of the Palestinian people from the cycle of targets,” it said.

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