Israel begins fuel transfer for Gaza power plant

AFP , Sunday 15 Dec 2013

Israel began transferring fuel to Gaza's sole power plant on Sunday, a Palestinian official said, as the Hamas-ruled enclave struggled to deal with massive flooding caused by winter downpours.

Raed Fatuh, a Palestinian Authority official in charge of the transfer of goods into Gaza, said Israel would be transferring 450,000 litres of fuel to the plant, which ground to a halt on November 1.

The PA, which rules the West Bank, is involved in helping coordinate the transfer of goods into Gaza via Israel, which Hamas does not recognise.

The Ramallah-based government purchased the fuel from Israel with funds donated by gas-rich Gulf state Qatar.

Gaza's energy authority said it hoped the power plant, which supplies some 30 percent of the coastal enclave's electricity needs, would become operational later Sunday.

Torrential rains that began on Wednesday caused heavy flooding in the enclave, with thousands of residents evacuated from their homes and seeking refuge in schools.

An AFP correspondent said on Sunday the water level was dropping, but that many residents were still stranded.

Following a request from the United Nations, Israel on Friday allowed the transfer of gas for domestic heating and fuel pumps for draining the floodwater.

In addition to the fuel for the power plant, Gaza would also receive "800,000 litres of diesel fuel for transportation... and another 200 tonnes of household gas," the Israeli army said in a statement.

Fatuh said the transfer of the fuel and gas would continue on Monday and Tuesday.

Israel and the Palestinian territories have been hard hit by the fiercest winter storm in decades, with many areas cut off by heavy snowfall, leaving hundreds of thousands of homes without power.

Although the snowstorm had eased up by Sunday, conditions remained very icy, prompting schools to stay shut in Jerusalem and the surrounding area, with public transport also suspended, officials said.

Schools were also closed in Ramallah and many roads remained blocked off by snowdrifts in and around the Palestinian city, residents said.

Meanwhile, in a separate development, medics in Gaza said a 16-year-old boy who was gathering rubble near the northern border fence with Israel was moderately wounded when soldiers opened fire, hitting him in the leg.

There was no immediate comment from the army.

It was the second such shooting in 12 hours, with another Palestinian shot and wounded by troops in southern Gaza late on Saturday. A spokeswoman said he had been "engaged in suspicious activity".

Short link: