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Union chief: Gaza facing new gas crisis

March 7, 2012 8:59 P.M. (Updated: March 9, 2012 8:34 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- The head of Gaza's gas station owners organization said Wednesday that the Gaza Strip is experiencing a domestic-use gas crisis after Israel reduced the amounts of fuel entering the enclave.

Mahmoud al-Shawwa said that over the past two weeks, Gaza has received 40 to 60 tons of domestic gas, but it needs at least 200 to 250 tons for its day-to-day operations.

Most of the strip's gas stockpile had been consumed, but officials are following up with the Israeli side, he said. Israel has promised to increase the quantities starting next Sunday, he added.

Guy Inbar, a spokesman for the Israeli military's civilian administration, said the Hamas government in Gaza was refusing to accept the full amount of fuel Israel is willing to send.

Inbar said he was aware that the shortages were causing problems in Gaza. "We spoke with senior (Palestinian Authority) people" about increasing the gas shipments. "It all depends on Hamas," he said.

The official said he was not familiar with any new plan to increase gas imports.

Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh said about 150 tons of gas came through Tuesday. That number was up from about 45 tons which was imported on Saturday, Fattouh said.

A power crisis, meanwhile, was sparked by a restriction on fuel smuggled into the territory from Egypt, adding to a widespread sense of discontent amongst the 1.7 million-strong population.

Traders who import goods from Israel and the West Bank say Hamas has introduced additional fees beyond the usual tax they collect, putting their businesses at risk and threatening livelihoods.

Hamas says the increase in levies is meant to protect homegrown products. But local analysts believe the group has been forced to tighten the fiscal screws at home because of a drop in funding from foreign allies, notably Iran.

Reuters contributed to this report.
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