Page last updated at 18:47 GMT, Sunday, 11 May 2008 19:47 UK

Gaza blackouts as fuel runs low

By Aleem Maqbool
BBC News, Ramallah

Palestinians in Gaza City hold a candlelight rally to protest against the fuel shortages 10 May 2008
The power plant has been closed since Saturday

There have been widespread electricity blackouts in the Gaza Strip after the territory's only power plant shut down.

It ran out of fuel because Israel has not allowed any fuel deliveries for the past five days, officials say.

Last year, the Israeli cabinet approved the use of fuel cuts to put pressure on Palestinian militants in the territory.

But aid agencies are warning that essential civilian services will be badly affected unless fuel shipments are permitted soon.

Gaza's power station supplies electricity to about a third of the territory's homes, with most of the rest supplied directly by Israel.

But for more than 24 hours it has been closed.

Officials there say they ran out of fuel on Saturday, and did not receive an expected shipment on Sunday.

While the fuel is paid for mainly by the European Union, as Gaza has no functioning air or sea terminals its delivery is dependent on passage through Israeli borders.

Last autumn, in response to frequent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, the Israeli government declared Gaza a "hostile entity" and restricted fuel supplies.

The country's high court did set a minimum amount of fuel that had to be allowed in to Gaza, but aid agencies like Oxfam say that has not happened.

They warn of a serious impact on health provision if that is not rectified soon.

Israeli officials have cited security reasons for stopping fuel deliveries, but say they will resume soon.

There have been several militant attacks on crossing points in recent weeks.

The United Nations has condemned these, but, as Gaza's 1.5 million residents face frequent shortages of many everyday supplies, it has also condemned Israel's response as "unjust".

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