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Gaza power plant shuts down in spite of fuel shipment

Nov. 25, 2008 9:26 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 25, 2008 9:26 A.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an/Agencies - The Gaza Strip's sole power plant shut down on Tuesday afternoon, a day after Israel allowed a crucial shipment of fuel into the besieged territory.

Energy officials said plant's electricity-generating units broke down because of frequent shutdowns. The plant has been forced to close down several times in two weeks because Israel refuses to allow regular shipments of industrial fuel.

There are also no spare parts available in Gaza to repair the generators. Kanan Ubeid, the assistant director of the Palestinian Energy Authority said "Israel refuses to allow in the necessary parts and the plant cannot restart without them."

The shutdown means that Gaza was plunged into darkness even sooner than expected. It also means that more pressure will be placed on the electricity grid bringing power overland from Israel and Egypt. By late afternoon residents of Gaza reported rolling blackouts.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mahmoud Al-Khizindar, the deputy chief of the federation of fuel companies in Gaza, said that a shipment of fuel allowed by Israel into the besieged Strip would not last more than 30 hours.

The power plant had been operational on Monday night for the first time in over a week after Israel momentarily eased its blockade of the tiny territory, allowing in food and European Union-supplied industrial fuel for the power plant.

Israel has imposed near total closure on the Gaza Strip since 4 November, tightening a blockade it has enforced since June 2007.

According to Al-Khizindar, on Monday Israel allowed only 440,000 liters of industrial fuel into Gaza on Monday. He said that Gaza would continue to be in "crisis" until normal shipments are allowed to resume.

He also said that Israel did not allow other types of fuel to be shipped, including cooking gas and gasoline for cars.

Late on Monday night, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered his military to resume the blockade of Gaza on Tuesday, citing reported homemade rockets fired from the Strip.

Israeli media claimed one such projectile was fired from the Strip on Monday night, causing no damage. No Palestinian group claimed responsibility for the attack.

Earlier on Monday United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon appealed to Israel to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

The blockade had forced the UN to suspend a food aid program that serves more than 750,000 Gazans. Monday's shipment of food allowed that program to resume.

The UN said that Monday's deliveries included nine truckloads of goods for the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and eight trucks containing powdered milk and rice for the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

***Updated at 21:18 local time
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