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Page last updated at 18:36 GMT, Wednesday, 23 April 2008 19:36 UK

Israel resumes Gaza fuel supplies

Gaza power station
Palestinian officials warned that the plant was hours from being shut down

Israel has allowed fuel to be delivered to the Gaza Strip's main power plant, averting the possibility that it would be forced to shut down within hours.

Palestinian officials had warned it would run out of fuel on Wednesday, plunging large areas into darkness.

The temporary resumption of deliveries followed mediation by the European Union, which pays for the fuel.

The UN has meanwhile warned it may have to suspend relief operations in Gaza unless vehicle fuel is let through too.

The director of the UN Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) told reporters in Gaza City that both it and the World Food Programme, which together feed over 1.1 million people, were likely to run out of diesel for their trucks within 24 hours.

The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, has said the humanitarian situation in the territory is increasingly dire and called the cutting of fuel supplies punitive and unacceptable.

The Israeli government has said its actions are a legitimate response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.

Sporadic supplies

An Israeli military statement issued on Wednesday morning said that it was allowing 1 million litres of fuel into Gaza for its power station.

Map

This was confirmed by Palestinian officials in the West Bank, who estimated that this amount would allow the plant to generate electricity for three days.

On Tuesday, the deputy head of the energy department in Gaza, Kanaan Obeid, had warned that the plant's fuel supply would last only another 30 hours, forcing it to shut down on Wednesday night.

About 120 megawatts out of the 200 megawatts of electricity used annually in Gaza are bought from and supplied by Israel directly.

A further 17 megawatts are supplied by Egypt, while 65 megawatts is produced by a power station in Gaza.

The last Israeli shipment of diesel and cooking oil to Gaza took place a week ago.

Israel's policy of limiting fuel supplies is part of an attempt to force the Islamist movement, Hamas, which controls Gaza, to stop rocket fire into Israel. Rocket fire has dropped off recently but not ceased.

Fuel supplies have been more sporadic than usual recently due to attacks by militants on the Nahal Oz depot through which they pass.



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