EU Urges Israel to Reconsider Cuts in Energy Supply to Gaza

Statement expresses concern over reduction of fuel supply to Gaza, condemns rocket attacks.

The European Union on Tuesday urged Israel to carefully reconsider the impact its cuts in energy supplies to the Gaza Strip will have on Palestinian civilians.

Israel began on Sunday reducing fuel shipments to Gaza in response to militant rocket fire on the western Negev. It also had planned to periodically cut the coastal territory's electricity supply, but Attorney General Menachem Mazuz temporarily nixed the plan on Monday.

"The EU notes with concern Israel's decision to reduce the supply of fuel to Gaza, an essential service to the civilian population," said a statement from the Portuguese government, which holds the EU's rotating presidency.

"While condemning the unacceptable and continued attacks on Israel's territory and recognizing the Israel's legitimate right to self defense, the EU underlines the need for carefully weighing the negative impact of such measures on a civilian population already living under very difficult conditions," the statement added.

Although the EU refuses to work with Gaza's ruling party, Hamas, it maintains humanitarian support.

"Mindful of the humanitarian and economic plight of the Palestinian people, the EU remains committed to continue its assistance and will do its utmost to ensure the provision of emergency and humanitarian assistance to the population of Gaza, whom it will not abandon," its statement said.

Mazuz on Monday prohibited cutting off electricity to parts of the Strip for the time being following a petition submitted by 10 human rights organizations, asking the High Court of Justice not to allow punitive measures against the Gaza Strip's population. The petitioners argued that the decision to cut off vital power supplies was illegal and was likely to harm the innocent civilian population in the embattled coastal strip.

Mazuz decided that Israel has the right to sever economic and commercial ties with the Gaza Strip, which Jerusalem last month declared a "hostile territory". However, in regard to halting the electricity supply, the attorney general said that further consideration would be required before such a measure could be implemented without violating the prime minister's promise last week "not to cause a humanitarian crisis" in Gaza.

Israel's defense establishment has expressed plans to cut electricity by 1 per cent - or 15 minutes each day - to those areas in the Strip from where the rockets are fired, a Defense Ministry spokesman said.

Israel began Sunday reducing its weekly supply of vital gasoline to Gaza by 15 percent and of diesel by 13 percent. But, Dror said, Israel would not touch the supply of crude diesel to Gaza's main power plant, which used up some 1.74 litres a week.

Ban calls for end to Qassams, urges no Israeli punitive measuresUnited Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Monday called on Gaza militants to stop the attacks against Israel, but also asked Israel not to take punitive measures that would hurt the civilian population.

"The secretary-general reiterates his call for the cessation of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel and strongly condemns these actions," said UN spokesperson Michelle Montas.

"However, he also believes strongly that punitive measures taken by Israel, which will harm the well-being of the entire population of the Gaza Strip, are unacceptable," she said.

Further tightening its closure of the Strip, Israel also closed the Sufa border crossing with southern Gaza, one of two crossings that had remained open during the past months for the passage of humanitarian aid.

The only outlet now remaining open to humanitarian aid is the southern-most Kerem Shalom crossing, a military spokeswoman said.

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) said closing the crossing enhanced the "vulnerability" of Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants, many of whom rely on food hand-outs.

A WFP spokeswoman in Jerusalem, Kirstie Campbell, acknowledged both Kerem Shalom and Sufa border crossings "have been under sustained mortar and rocket attacks from Palestinian militants," but warned that the remaining crossing of Kerem Shalom lacked the capacity to meet Gaza's daily needs of basic foods. While Sufa had the capacity to let through about 100 trucks a day, Kerem Shalom had about half that, she said.