The only power station in the Gaza Strip stopped producing electricity Tuesday after Israel halted supplies of diesel fuel to the coastal enclave.
The Israeli move was in response to the continuing wave of incendiary balloons launched into Israel from there.
The shutdown of the power plant will reduce Gazans’ daily power supply from 8 to 12 hours up to now to just 3 or 4 hours. The only remaining source of electricity in the Hamas-controlled enclave is power directly supplied by Israel – after Egypt, which also shares a border with Gaza, stopped providing electricity in February.
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The incendiary balloons continued to be launched into Israel on Tuesday, causing damage in a number of Israeli communities in the south. Some of the balloons were launched with photos of Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic movement in Israel who began serving a 17-year sentence this week. Balloons also caused two fires in the region.
The balloons have been launched by a number of Palestinian groups, which vowed on Tuesday to immediately step up their operations: “We call on all our people on the ground to intensify the launching of balloons at all the [Israeli] communities near Gaza, to turn the area into a field of fire. The coming hours will include surprises.”
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Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the continued Israeli siege of Gaza, coupled now with the power cuts are a crime against humanity for which he held Israel responsible. "The Palestinian people and all of the factions, and most importantly Hamas, will not agree to accept the continued siege and will wage the campaign [against] Israel by every means until the siege is broken."
In addition to limitations that Israel has placed on the movement of people and goods in and out of the Gaza Strip, Egypt has also imposed limitations on its border with the enclave.
The Israel Air Force attacked underground Hamas facilities in Gaza on Monday night. The Israeli attacks have become a nightly occurrence in response to the balloons. On Monday, 19 fires were caused by the devices, including one in the yard of a preschool in Sderot, which was not in operation at the time. Most of the fires have been in open areas in the Eshkol and Sha’ar Hanegev regions, which border the Strip.
Israeli defense officials say the security incidents along the border over the past few weeks are part of an attempt by Hamas to put pressure on Israel to keep commitments that Israel has made in indirect negotiations with the Islamist group. The Israeli officials do not think, however, that Hamas is interested in a confrontation with Israel.