Page last updated at 17:04 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Gaza power cut blamed on blockade

Gaza's power plant
The power plant received enough fuel for one day

The only power plant in the Gaza Strip has been closed by energy authorities because they say Israel will not allow the urgent delivery of spare parts.

Officials said the plant had been damaged by frequent shutdowns because of fuel shortages and needed repairs.

The closure means that about 500,000 people - one-third of Gaza's population - are without electricity.

Israel says the tightening of the Gaza blockade is a legitimate response to attacks by Palestinian militants.

During a temporary lifting of the blockade for humanitarian aid on Monday, Israeli authorities also allowed a delivery of fuel to the power plant, the third since the blockade was intensified on 4 November.

EU officials said the fuel delivery would be enough to keep the power plant running for a day.

Officials say the power plant shutdown was the cumulative result of months of being unable to receive replacement parts.

"Despite deliveries of fuel on Monday, the power plant stopped functioning because of breakdowns in the production units," the assistant director of the authority, Kanaan Obeid, told AFP.

Israel "refuses to allow in the necessary parts and the plant cannot restart without them," he added.

Humanitarian concern

There have been frequent power cuts in Gaza City over recent weeks because of severe fuel shortages.

Israel closed the crossings after a rocket was fired at Israel late on Monday.

In the past, Israeli officials have accused Hamas of cynically exaggerating the impact of border closures to garner sympathy, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Jerusalem.

But the United Nations relief agency in Gaza (Unrwa) has warned of a worsening humanitarian crisis unless the crossings are opened.

The militants said their rocket attacks, which caused minor damage but no serious injuries, were in retaliation for an Israeli army raid into Gaza.

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