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Qatari diesel to run power plant enters Gaza

Dec. 15, 2013 12:51 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 15, 2013 10:09 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israeli authorities started to pump industrial diesel donated by Qatar into the Gaza Strip on Sunday morning, a Gaza official told Ma'an.

The move is part of a temporary agreement to ease the blockade following days of record flooding that has devastated large swathes of the besieged coastal enclave.

Raed Fattouh, president of a committee that coordinates the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip, told Ma'an that 450,000 liters of diesel donated by Qatar was being shipped to the coastal enclave via Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday.

Fattouh added that as a result of an agreement, the Kerem Shalom crossing will temporarily operate for 12 hours a day in order to allow increased quantities of gasoline, domestic-use diesel, and gas to enter the Gaza Strip.

He added that the extended hours would begin on Sunday and continue for the next week.

Eight truckloads of strawberries, flowers and spices are expected to leave the Gaza Strip to European countries through the same crossing on Sunday, added Fattouh, as Gazans take advantage of the temporary ease on the Israeli blockade to ship exports.

In addition, 100 truckloads of goods for commercial use and for agriculture will be allowed into the Gaza Strip as well as limited sums of cement and gravel for internationally-funded projects.

On Friday, Qatari authorities announced that they would donate $10 million to Hamas authorities in Gaza in the wake of the humanitarian crisis caused by severe weather since Thursday.

The donation was given to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank to purchase diesel fuel from Israel, and on Sunday the first shipment of diesel fuel began arriving to fuel Gaza's sole power plant.

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Prior to the storm, fuel shortages had caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

The Gaza Strip has been without a functioning power plant since the beginning of November, when the plant ran out of diesel fuel as a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.

The plant itself was only reopened last year after it was targeted by an Israeli airstrike in the 2006 assault on the Strip. The power plant generates around 30 percent of the Gaza Strip's electricity supply, while the rest comes from Israel and Egypt.

Until July of this year, the tunnels to Egypt provided a vital lifeline for the territory amidst the otherwise crippling Israeli blockade. The blockade has been in place since 2006, and it has limited imports and exports and led to a major economic decline and wide-reaching humanitarian crisis.

In the last year, however, the situation had greatly improved, as the tunnels to Egypt witnessed a brisk trade following the Egyptian Revolution.

Gaza Strip energy officials have blamed Egypt for destroying numerous tunnels linking the Gaza Strip and Egypt in recent months. They also blamed the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority for charging taxes on fuel too high for Gaza Strip authorities to afford.
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