Defying Abbas, Israel Allows Qatari-funded Fuel Into Gaza Strip

Egyptian intelligence chief set to visit Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Amman in coming days ■ Egypt expected to threaten Abbas: Cooperate with negotiations or face being shut out

ARCHIVE - A fuel tanker arrives at Gaza's power plant in the central Gaza Strip, January 16, 2017
\ IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/ REUTERS/

Diesel fuel funded by the Gulf state of Qatar has begun arriving in the Gaza Strip through the Kerem Shalom border crossing with Israel on Tuesday, Palestinian sources in Gaza reported.

According to the reports, two trucks carrying a total of 35,000 liters (9,200 gallons) of fuel arrived at the border crossing in the company of United Nations vehicles. Israel confirmed the delivery of several diesel drums through the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Electricity is supplied on average for four hours a day in Gaza and over the past year, the only power plant in the Strip has had to shut down several times due to shortages of diesel fuel.

>> Gaza tension: Abbas-Hamas rift threatens to blow up in Israel's face | Analysis 

It is not yet clear if the quantity of fuel that has been delivered will improve boost electricity supplies for Gaza residents and whether Qatar has committed to provide long-term supplies of fuel to the Hamas-controlled enclave.

It is also not clear whether the supply of the fuel is being provided with the approval of the Palestinian Authority, which was ousted from Gaza by Hamas by force in 2007.

Despite the Israeli security establishment warning against moving forward with reconciliation without Abbas' involvement, it supported the fuel transfer. This was in light of the humanitarian condition in Gaza, which was deemed too fragile to risk, with diesel fuel being essential to power vital infrastructures and electricity.

As reported last week, as part of an arrangement put in place over the past several weeks, Qatar agreed to fund the purchase of the fuel required to power the electricity generating station in Gaza.

Gazans during a power outage in the al-Shati refugee camp in the northern Strip, 2017
MAHMUD HAMS/AFP

The arrangement is expected to ultimately substantially increase the electricity supplies provided to Gaza residents. There is hope in Israel that the improvement will reduce the risk of an all-out military confrontation with Hamas.

The contact over fuel supplies have been conducted in recent months under the direction of UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov. Qatar was represented by Mohammed al-Emadi, who has acted as a contact between the Gulf state and Israel and the territories.

The issue has been handled for the most part on Israel's behalf by Meir Ben-Shabbat, the head of the National Security Council.

A breakthrough on the issue was achieved at a conference last week in New York of donor countries providing assistance to the Palestinians on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session.

Egypt intelligence chief to visit Israel, West Bank

On Tuesday, the Qatari-sponsored London daily Al-Arabi reported that Egyptian intelligence chief Abbas Kamel will visit Tel Aviv, Ramallah and Amman in the coming days as part of tour meant to promote a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Kamel is set to meet Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the report said, and convey a conclusive message from Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi that he must cooperate with efforts to move towards calm and rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip, as well as advancing a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Otherwise Egypt will withdraw as mediator and sponsor of the negotiations and will work exclusively with Hamas as sovereign of Gaza, and the one responsible for the Strip's border with Sinai.

It was also reported that Kamel will present Abbas with the terms consolidated with Hamas leadership during their visit to Cairo last week. He will also ask for Jordan to support of Egypt's efforts, as Amman still back Abbas' stance.

Abbas opposes any concessions or assistance to the Strip without the supervision and cooperation of the PA, which he stipulates on Hamas relinquishing control of Gaza.

Also Tuesday, Videos documenting Palestinian protesters crossing the border fence in the northern Gaza Strip and setting fire to an unmanned Israel Defense Forces outpost circulated on social media.

Eleven Palestinian protesters were wounded by Israeli military fire the during clashes on Monday, Gaza's Health Ministry said.