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Gaza facing crisis after Israeli blockade

Atul Aneja

— Photo: AFP

HUMANITARIAN CRISIS: A Palestinian nurse stands next to a baby sleeping in an incubator in a hospital in Gaza City on Sunday. Gaza reeled from power outages following an Israeili blockade.

DUBAI: A humanitarian crisis is looming over Gaza after Israel began tightening its blockade around the coastal strip.

Around a million Palestinians in the territory are facing the prospect of a power blackout after fuel shortages forced a partial shutdown of the main power station in Gaza. One of the turbines has stopped functioning and the second is also facing shutdown by Sunday evening.

Stores in Gaza are now running out of candles and elevators in some of the buildings are grounded. Palestinian officials warn that the growing fuel supplies could trigger the collapse of Gaza’s already fragile health system.

“There is no fuel coming in and we have no reserves,” Kannan Abeid, deputy chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority was quoted as saying. Officials warned that the humanitarian situation is likely to worsen after basic supplies that were being ferried under the U.N. flag were also denied entry into Gaza.

Officials from the European Union, which is involved in funding fuel supplies to Gaza, said the last consignment of fuel that entered the Strip was on Thursday.

Israel has stopped passage of essential supplies into Gaza to deter Qassam rocket attacks that are launched from the territory.

The Palestinian Islamic group Hamas administers Gaza. It exercises unrivalled influence there after it forced in June, the exit of Fatah forces that are loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from the territory. The Israeli Defence Ministry has said that Defence Minister Ehud Barak would personally decide whether supply restrictions can be eased for specific “humanitarian cases” in the territory.

Partial fuel shortages have been affecting Gaza since September after Israel declared that the Strip was a “hostile entity.”

It is estimated that Gaza consumes around 200 megawatts of electricity. Of this nearly 65 per cent is produced by the local power station, while the rest is sourced from Egypt and Israel.

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