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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 09:31 GMT
Abbas appeal after Gaza fuel cut
A kidney dialyses unit of the al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on 20 January
The UN said hospitals were relying on generators
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the international community to intervene over power cuts in Gaza blamed on an Israeli blockade.

Gaza City was plunged into darkness on Sunday after managers shut down the Hamas-run Gaza Strip's only power plant, saying they had no fuel left.

But Israel, which is continuing to provide 60% of Gaza's power, says the Strip still has sufficient fuel stocks.

It accused Hamas of closing the plant as a "ploy" to attract sympathy.

Hundreds of thousands of people's homes - as well as hospitals and factories - were blacked out by power cuts in Gaza City.

End the blockade of Gaza immediately and allow the entry of fuel to facilitate the lives of the innocent
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

On Monday morning residents awoke to closed petrol stations and shuttered bakeries unable to bake bread that is a staple food in Gaza.

Israel cut supplies of some types of fuel and closed border crossings into Gaza on Friday in response to continuing rockets attacks from militants in Gaza.

Foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel called the blackout a Hamas "ploy to attract international sympathy".

The UN believes Gaza's 1.5m inhabitants face serious hardship and one of its officials said unheated hospitals were having to rely on generators for operations.

Gaza's power station on 20 January
Gaza uses 200 megawatts of electricity
Israel supplies 60% of this, and Egypt 8%
The remaining 32% is produced by Gaza's power station
Israel supplies the fuel oil for the Gaza power station

Officials with the European Union, which funds fuel shipments to the Gaza power plant, told Reuters on Sunday that the power station was "very low" on fuel.

Mr Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas last year, called on Israel to "end its blockade of Gaza immediately and allow the entry of fuel to facilitate the lives of the innocent", his spokesman said.

He also called for a "special meeting" of foreign ministers of the Arab League to discuss the crisis and threatened to raise the matter with the UN Security Council if Israel did not respond to his appeal.

Permanent delegates were due to discuss the Israeli blockade at the body's Cairo headquarters on Monday.

'Very, very cold'

"At least 800,000 people are now in darkness. The catastrophe will affect hospitals, medical clinics, water wells, houses, factories, all aspects of life," said senior official Derar Abu Sissi as he shut down the Gaza plant on Sunday night.

Plant director Rafik Maliha said earlier that the regular fuel delivery from Israel had not arrived because the fuel terminal, Nahal Oz, was closed and the facility had almost no reserves.

Damage caused by rocket fired from Gaza
Israel says border closures will stop if the rocket attacks end
The head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza, John Ging, told the BBC it was a desperate situation.

"The hospitals are operating on generator power," he said.

"What it means is that the vital medical equipment is functioning, but there's no power for heating, so it's very, very cold in all the hospitals tonight."

He warned that when diesel supplies ran out, there would be no fuel to power the generators.

A local health official, Dr Moaiya Hassanain, said hospitals faced a catastrophic choice between cutting "electricity on babies in the maternity ward or heart surgery patients" or stopping operating theatres.

'No crisis'

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel's defence ministry, insisted the power station had enough fuel to continue functioning.

"If they shut it down, it's not because of a fuel shortage, but because they want to create the impression of a crisis," he said.

Israel, which shut the borders on Thursday, has reduced the flow of petrol used in cars and diesel to the strip but says fuel oil and cooking gas are not affected.

More than 200 rockets and mortars have hit Israel from Gaza since an Israeli operation against militants on Tuesday which left 18 Palestinians dead, the military says.

Gaza City in darkness

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