Turkey to fund fuel for Gaza stricken utilities
UN begins to distribute fuel in attempt to counter crisis as Egypt crackdown on smuggling tunnels continues.
Turkey will fund a purchase of fuel to provide power for emergency services in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, including hospitals and idle sewage treatment plants, a United Nations official said on Thursday.
Robert Turner, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that provides assistance to Palestinian refugees, said Turkey had pledged $850,000 that should allow emergency services to operate over the coming four months.
Turner said the donation was paid by Turkey to the Palestinian Authority, which in turn had already transferred $200,000 of it to UNRWA in Gaza.
"We are facilitating the process by purchasing the fuel, locations and the distribution and monitoring are being done by UNICEF and by the World Health Organisation," Turner, the UNRWA Gaza director of operations, told Reuters.
Turner said the fuel would not be enough to resolve the crisis at these critical service facilities but would help to "alleviate" it.
Egypt's months-long crackdown on cross-border smuggling tunnels that used to bring fuel in cheaply has already knocked out Gaza's only power plant, meaning nearly a month of daily 12-hour blackouts for the 1.8 million people in the tiny, densely populated Palestinian territory.
A major sewage treatment plant that serves a neighbourhood of 120,000 people has stopped working and raw sewage is overflowing into the streets, municipal officials said. Other facilities were also threatened with shutdown, they said.
Egypt's closure of most of the estimated 1,200 tunnels run by Hamas has virtually stopped Egyptian fuel coming into Gaza, forcing Palestinians to buy imported Israeli petrol at double the price - 6.7 shekels ($1.9) a litre.
The military-backed Egyptian government fear the tunnels are used to take weapons into the Sinai Peninsula, and accuses Hamas of backing the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which was ousted by the security forces in July. Hamas denies this.
Israel has imposed its own blockade on Gaza, allowing in fuel and a restricted list of imports since Hamas took control in 2007. Hamas has spurned Western calls to recognize Israel and renounce violence.