Middle East News
EU demands Israel ensure delivery of fuel to Gaza Strip (Roundup)
Apr 24, 2008, 15:17 GMT
European Union commissioner Louis Michel on Thursday urged Israel to ensure the delivery of fuel supplies to Gaza, but Israel blamed Hamas for the shortage and accused it of staging a \'fabricated\' petrol crisis in the Strip.
Brussels/Jerusalem - European Union commissioner Louis Michel on Thursday urged Israel to ensure the delivery of fuel supplies to Gaza, but Israel blamed Hamas for the shortage and accused it of staging a 'fabricated' petrol crisis in the Strip.
Michel's call follows a warning Wednesday from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which said it would have to halt the distribution of food assistance to 650,000 refugees in the enclave because of a fuel shortage.
Israel however, said it transferred one million litres of fuel, enough for humanitarian needs, to the Strip three weeks ago, but 800,000 litres were still waiting to be collected on the Palestinian side of the key Nahal Oz fuel terminal.
An additional one million litres of fuel was transferred to the Strip Wednesday night.
'Hamas can take the fuel but doesn't,' Israel Foreign Ministry Spokesman Arye Mekel charged, accusing the Islamist organization which rules Gaza of propaganda.
Residents of the Strip said Hamas officials have taken fuel for their own purposes and given it to high-ranking leaders and government employees, but has not distributed the remainder to the population at large.
Owners of gas stations in the salient have been on strike, refusing to accept the fuel that Israel does supply, charging it is not enough for all their needs.
The fuel shortage has become increasingly tangible over the past week, with residents saying they have to go on foot to work, while their children are forced to walk long distances to school in the intense heat.
'It is unacceptable that the UN should find itself having to consider suspending its humanitarian operations simply for a lack of fuel for its vehicles,' said Michel, who holds the EU executive's development and humanitarian aid portfolio.
'It is essential that the fuel supply to Gaza is resumed, and in particular that fuel provision for the United Nation's agencies as well as basic services be guaranteed immediately,' he added.
The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinian Territories, and the commission's relief package for Gaza alone amounts to almost 30 million euros (48 million dollars), officials in Brussels said.