Gaza: Fuel crisis looms as crossings remain closed 12Apr11 April 13, 2011

Ma’an News Agency -  12 April 2011

For the sixth day in a row crossings into the Gaza Strip were closed by Israeli forces maintaining a blockade on the coastal enclave, who told Palestinian liaison officers that the closure was for “security reasons.”

Closures began on Tuesday, two days ahead of spike in border violence which saw 18 killed by Israeli strikes in Gaza — including at least six civilians — and two injured in Israel. The closure continues despite an announced ceasefire deal that went into place before midnight on Sunday.

Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh said the closure of the crossings, which supply the 1.6 million residents of Gaza with humanitarian aid, domestic-use fuel and limited commercial goods, was devastating for the commercial sector.

Fuel crisis pending

Vice President of the Oil and Gas Station Owners Union Mahmud Al-Khazandar said a fuel crisis was looming, and that fuel had not entered Gaza for 11 days.

Even before crossings were closed for “security reasons,” Al-Khazandar said fuel transfers into the coastal enclave had been stopped.

With an expected daily intake of 200-300 tons, Al-Khazandar added, residents were operating under a 3,000 ton shortage. Reserves, he added were quickly being depleted.

The crisis would not be remedied soon, the official said, explaining that even when fuel imports resume, the capacity of the sole remaining operating crossing — Kerem Shalom — tops out at 200 tons per day.

The Nahal Oz terminal, closed in 2009, is the only terminal capable of handling the necessary volume of fuel to avert the crisis, he said.

Calls have been made to the new Egyptian government to allow the import of all types of fuel through the Rafah crossing, but officials said no clear response has been received.

Fuel for Gaza’s power plant has come through the smuggling tunnels via Egypt since January 2011, after Gaza engineers innovated a purifying technique to make the low-grade tunnel fuel usable for the generators.

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