JERUSALEM (AP) – A threatened shutdown of Gaza’s only power plant was averted Wednesday after Israel agreed to pump 1 million liters of diesel fuel to the territory.
Mujahed Salameh, the head of the Palestinian fuel authority in the West Bank town of Ramallah, confirmed the Israeli military’s report that fuel was being pumped. Salameh said 1 million liters was enough to power the plant for three days.
Kaanan Obeid, a Gaza energy official, had warned that the plant was in danger of shutting down Wednesday if fuel weren’t delivered. Israel is the sole source of Gaza’s fuel, but supplies have been sporadic since Palestinian militants attacked the Israeli fuel depot just across the border from Gaza earlier this month, killing two Israeli workers.
The plant supplies one-third of the territory’s electricity, and Israel’s electricity utility supplies most of the rest.
The last Israeli fuel shipment to Gaza took place a week ago, when diesel and cooking gas were delivered, the military said.
Even before the deadly attack on the fuel terminal on April 9, Israel had reduced fuel supplies to Gaza, as part of a broader effort to pressure militants to halt rocket attacks on Israeli border communities.
Rocket attacks have dropped off sharply, though they have not ceased altogether.
On Tuesday, Gaza’s Hamas rulers said they would accept a cease-fire that is limited to the tiny seaside territory, and dropped their long-standing demand that the West Bank be included in any halt in fighting with Israel.
The West Bank is ruled by the rival Western-backed government of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is engaged in peace talks with Israel. Israel conducts routine manhunts against gunmen there, and Hamas says it expects any truce deal to be extended to the West Bank in the future.
Hamas’ agreement to exclude the West Bank from a cease-fire deal was a significant concession. But a deal, which Egypt has been trying to broker for months, still appears distant because the violent Islamic group is also demanding that Israel open Gaza’s blockaded border crossings. And although Egypt clearly is acting as a communications channel between the two sides, Israel insists it won’t even negotiate with Hamas. Israel shut the border passages after Hamas violently seized control of Gaza last June, opening them only to let in humanitarian aid.
Israel is unlikely to yield to Hamas’ demand to reopen the crossings. Doing so, it fears, would enable Hamas to consolidate its rule over Gaza and restock its arsenal. The Islamic group, which is sworn to Israel’s destruction, has killed more than 250 Israelis in suicide bombings, and is responsible for ongoing rocket barrages from Gaza.
Palestinians have staged a series of attacks on Israeli frontier terminals in the past two weeks, most recently a failed suicide bombing last Saturday. Although the crossings are used to deliver humanitarian aid and basic supplies to Gaza, militant hard-liners view them as symbols of Israel’s economic blockade and attack the passages to try to derail peace efforts.
Hamas is not involved in the peace talks that were relaunched in the U.S. in November after a seven-year breakdown.