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Gaza faces more blackouts as Egypt fuel fails to arrive

Feb. 19, 2012 4:20 A.M. (Updated: Feb. 20, 2012 10:42 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Fuel from Egypt has yet to be transferred to Gaza despite assurances it would arrive on Sunday to alleviate an energy crisis, a power authority official said Sunday afternoon.

Gaza's sole power station has stopped functioning since Tuesday, leaving the Gaza Strip with up to 18 hour blackouts each day.

An Egyptian parliamentarian said Saturday that Egypt would pump 500,000 liters of fuel into Gaza per day for the power plant and 100,000 for gas stations.

But the route of the promised fuel into the Gaza Strip appeared to be holding up the delivery.

Egypt wants to stop the passage of fuel through tunnels under the border between the countries, but the official Rafah terminal is not equipped for goods transfers and its development is restricted by an agreement between Egypt, Israel and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority.

The only alternative route while this agreement is being renegotiated is for the fuel to cross into Israel, and then back into the Gaza Strip through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom terminal, the sole goods transfer point after Israel closed the fuel crossing Nahal Oz in January 2010.

Energy Authority official Ahmad Abu al-Amreen told Ma'an that while the government does not want to rely on transfers via Israel -- which severely restricts the movement of people and goods from the Gaza Strip since it tightened a blockade on the territory in 2007 -- it will allow shipment via the Israeli crossing temporarily to alleviate the current emergency.

It was not clear whether this solution had been accepted by Egyptian authorities, but Abu al-Amreen said the power authority had not received notification from Egypt about how the fuel would be transferred.

"We keep contacting the relevant authorities in Egypt, but so far we received no answers," he added.

With an icy storm blowing through the Palestinian territories, officials have warned of a humanitarian crisis as the blackouts stop water pumping, sewage facilities, and heating in the Gaza Strip.
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