Hamas disrupts fuel supplies to Gaza
By Khaled Abu Toameh
Hamas militiamen in the Gaza Strip on Sunday attacked fuel trucks headed toward the Nahal Oz border crossing, forcing them to turn back, sources in the Palestinian Petroleum Authority said.
The fuel was supposed to go to the UN Relief and Works Agency [UNRWA] and hospitals in the Gaza Strip, the sources said.
"Dozens of Hamas militiamen hurled stones and opened fire at the trucks," the sources added. "The trucks were on their way to receive fuel supplied by Israel. The drivers were forced to turn back. Some of them had their windshields smashed."
The Palestinian Petroleum Authority reached an agreement with Israel over the weekend to receive 250,000 liters of fuel after UNRWA complained that it did not have enough fuel to distribute food aid to more than 500,000 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry also accused Hamas of blocking fuel supplies to hospitals and clinics in the Gaza Strip. The ministry said Hamas gunmen opened fire at a number of trucks that were trying to transfer fuel to the hospitals and clinics.
Eyewitnesses in Gaza City said that at least on four occasions over the past few weeks, Hamas militiamen confiscated trucks loaded with fuel shortly as they were on their way from Nahal Oz to the city.
They added that the fuel supplies were taken to Hamas-controlled security installations throughout the city.
"Hamas is taking the fuel for it the vehicles of is leaders and security forces," the eyewitnesses said. "Because of Hamas's actions, some hospitals have been forced to stop the work of ambulances and generators."
PA officials in Ramallah said Hamas's measures were aimed at creating a crisis in the Gaza Strip with the hope that the international community would intervene and force Israel to reopen the border crossings.
"As far as we know, there is enough fuel reaching the Gaza Strip," the officials said. "But Hamas's measures are aimed at creating a crisis. Hamas is either stealing or blocking most of the fuel supplies."
They pointed out that last week Hamas dispatched hundreds of its supporters to Nahal Oz to block the fuel supplies from Israel. Hamas claimed that the protest was organized by farmers and fishermen demanding an end to the blockade on the Gaza Strip.
The officials also noted that the shortage in fuel supplies has created a high-priced black market for individuals and institutions.
UNRWA workers admitted over the weekend that Hamas had prevented some fuel trucks from entering the Gaza Strip.
Hamas has also been exerting pressure on the Gaza Petrol Station Owners Association to close down their businesses so as to aggravate the crisis. Some of the station owners and workers said they were afraid to return to work after receiving death threats from Hamas militiamen and ordinary residents desperate to purchase gas and diesel for their vehicles.
Khaled Abu Toameh
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