Gaza's Only Power Plant Shuts Down Over Fuel Shortage, Official Says

Israel closes crossing after string of cross-border violence; electricity official says blackouts to be extended by 6 hours.

The only power plant in the Gaza Strip shut down Friday, the electric company reportedly said.

According to an electric company official cited by AFP, the power plant stopped working due to a shortage in fuel. He blamed the Israeli government for this shortage, saying it was caused by Tuesday's closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing.

The Gaza Strip has largely relied on the fuel coming in from Egypt through the cross-border smuggling tunnels under Rafah over the past few years. But since Egypt demolished hundreds of smuggling tunnels earlier this year, the Hamas government has become more dependent on the fuel that comes from Israel.

Short on fuel, the lone Gaza power plant has ceased to serve nearly half the population of 1.8 million. Patchy alternative supplies of electricity from Israel's grid have meant 12-hour blackouts every day.

The electric company official said the power station's closure meant only half the amount of electricity would be available, limiting electricity supplies to six hours a day instead of 12.

This is power station's second shutdown in two months.

On November 1, the plant shut down due to a fuel shortage. On December 15, Israel allowed 450,000 liters of fuel into the Gaza Strip to enable the Palestinian territory's sole power plant to resume operations. The delivery of fuel was purchased from Israel by the Palestinian Authority using funds donated by Qatar.

Qatar had answered an appeal by Gaza's government after four days of torrential rains that killed two people and forced the evacuation of more than 5,000 residents from flooded homes, some accessible only by boat.

During the storm, Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing for gas and water pumps for coping with the floods. It was through this crossing that the Qatari fuel made its way into the Strip.

But the border crossing was closed by Israel on Tuesday following a string of violent cross-border incidents between Gaza militants and Israeli soldiers.