Fuel crosses from Israel to ease Gaza fuel crisis

GAZA Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:35am EDT

A Palestinian woman holds a flag during a rally calling on Egyptian authorities to supply the Gaza Strip with fuel and electricity, in Rafah, on the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip March 20, 2012. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

A Palestinian woman holds a flag during a rally calling on Egyptian authorities to supply the Gaza Strip with fuel and electricity, in Rafah, on the border between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip March 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

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GAZA (Reuters) - Israel allowed nine fuel tankers to cross into the Gaza Strip on Friday to ease a severe power shortage triggered by a dispute over supplies between Egypt and the enclave's Hamas Islamist rulers.

The delivery of around 450,000 liters of industrial diesel was the first to Gaza's only power station coming via Israel in almost a year after Hamas softened on its resistance to accepting supplies from its Jewish neighbor.

The fuel is enough to power the plant, which serves two thirds of Gaza's population, for one day, an official from Gaza's energy authority said.

A Palestinian official said contacts were under way to arrange an additional delivery on Friday.

The fuel crisis has crippled Gaza in recent weeks. Petrol pumps have run dry and its 1.7 million residents suffer major electricity black outs.

The dispute followed Egypt's insistence that fuel imports to Gaza pass through the Israeli-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing on the Egypt-Gaza border and its crackdown on smuggled supplies last month.

Hamas objects to that arrangement, not wanting Israel, a country whose right to exist it does not recognize, the power to block supplies in times of tension. It wants direct trade with Egypt, which could strengthen Gaza's economy and Hamas's popularity.

The crisis is a further example of the rocky relationship between Hamas and Egypt, which favors Hamas' rivals Fatah - the party that lost control of the Strip to Hamas in 2007.

Friday's delivery followed "intensive and successful contacts" between Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, and Egypt and Israel, said Raed Fattouh, the Palestinian Authority official in charge of coordination with Israel over the passage of supplies into Gaza.

Initially Hamas did not want to accept the diesel but later relented.

(Reporting by Nidal Almughrabi; Editing by Ben Harding)

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