EU resumes Gaza fuel payments


Summary

The European Union suspended fuel deliveries to a major Gaza power plant after it began to suspect the Strip’s Hamas rulers were pocketing electricity revenues.

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Yesterday, it announced that fuel shipments to the power plant would resume today, but that the plant must be audited.

Hamas denied skimming money, saying the allegations were cooked up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival government in the West Bank in an effort to discredit it.

The fuel cutoff confronted Hamas with a major crisis just two months after it seized control of the Strip, vanquishing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.

Power outage

It also left at least half of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents in the dark and without fans as temperatures soared to 34 Celsius.

Without enough power to keep pumps going, authorities began rationing water.

The electricity outage began Friday after Israel closed a fuel crossing with Gaza, citing security threats.

Although Israel reopened the crossing on Sunday, the fuel shipments were not renewed because the EU notified the Israeli fuel vendor that it would not pay for them.

Hamas members have been going door to door in Gaza in recent weeks, ordering residents to pay long-overdue electricity bills.

While Hamas denies it controls the electricity company, Fatah insisted it does, citing the arrest last month of the Gaza electric company’s executive director.

'Humanitarian reasons'

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, decided to resume the fuel shipments provisionally "for humanitarian reasons," but will be carrying out an audit of the power plant immediately, in conjunction with Abbas’ government, the EC said.

The EU made it clear that "if they find any money transferred from the company to the Hamas government, they will stop supplying Gaza with fuel within hours," Palestinian Information Minister Riad Malki added.

Israeli strikes

Israeli forces combating Palestinian gunmen in Gaza have killed a Hamas militant in an airstrike early.

Hamas identified the militant killed today as Yehia Habib, a senior field commander in Gaza City. Three other militants were wounded.

Israel said it struck a group of armed men who had approached the border fence with Israel.

The attack took place hours after troops killed a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old – members of the same extended family – in northern Gaza.

Another 10-year-old was seriously wounded and six other people, all civilians, were slightly hurt, Dr Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The army said soldiers targeted two figures spotted near a rocket launcher in an area where a rocket had been fired into Israel earlier.

Palestinian rocket teams have been known to send young children to retrieve rocket launchers after projectiles are fired, it added.

Earlier Palestinian medical sources said two children and three militants from the radical Islamic Jihad group have been killed in separate Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

In a text message to journalists in Gaza, Islamic Jihad said the three gunmen were killed east of the town of Khan Yunis as a result of a direct hit.

An army spokesman said that the military "attacked and identified hitting three armed gunmen that were identified close to the security fence in the central Gaza Strip."

He added that soldiers "recovered weapons from the bodies."

Later an Israeli raid on Beit Hanun in the north of the territory killed two young Palestinians, according to another medical source who named the victims as nine-year-old Fadi al-Qassana and Abed Yussef al-Qassana, 12.

The Israeli military confirmed to AFP "an attack against two people with a rocket launcher in the Beit Hanun sector from where rockets were fired earlier at Israel."

It said two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, without causing casualties or damage.

The military said one exploded near a kindergarten in the southern town of Sderot, a regular target for rocket attacks from Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said later it was "likely that the children who were killed had been sent by the terrorists to recover the rocket launchers, as has been the case on several occasions in the past."

Israeli warplanes also launched an attack yesterday on a building in Rafah on the border with Egypt in which it targeted members of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Palestinian security sources said.

One Palestinian was killed in that attack, they said.

Israel has carried out a number of strikes and incursions inside Gaza since Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, took control of the territory in mid-June.

On Monday, six Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli strike on a jeep in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

The latest deaths took to 5,832 the number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinian, according to a newswire agency AFP count.


The European Union suspended fuel deliveries to a major Gaza power plant after it began to suspect the Strip’s Hamas rulers were pocketing electricity revenues.

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Yesterday, it announced that fuel shipments to the power plant would resume today, but that the plant must be audited.

Hamas denied skimming money, saying the allegations were cooked up by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ rival government in the West Bank in an effort to discredit it.

The fuel cutoff confronted Hamas with a major crisis just two months after it seized control of the Strip, vanquishing Fatah forces loyal to Abbas.

Power outage

It also left at least half of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents in the dark and without fans as temperatures soared to 34 Celsius.

Without enough power to keep pumps going, authorities began rationing water.

The electricity outage began Friday after Israel closed a fuel crossing with Gaza, citing security threats.

Although Israel reopened the crossing on Sunday, the fuel shipments were not renewed because the EU notified the Israeli fuel vendor that it would not pay for them.

Hamas members have been going door to door in Gaza in recent weeks, ordering residents to pay long-overdue electricity bills.

While Hamas denies it controls the electricity company, Fatah insisted it does, citing the arrest last month of the Gaza electric company’s executive director.

'Humanitarian reasons'

The European Commission, the executive branch of the EU, decided to resume the fuel shipments provisionally "for humanitarian reasons," but will be carrying out an audit of the power plant immediately, in conjunction with Abbas’ government, the EC said.

The EU made it clear that "if they find any money transferred from the company to the Hamas government, they will stop supplying Gaza with fuel within hours," Palestinian Information Minister Riad Malki added.

Israeli strikes

Israeli forces combating Palestinian gunmen in Gaza have killed a Hamas militant in an airstrike early.

Hamas identified the militant killed today as Yehia Habib, a senior field commander in Gaza City. Three other militants were wounded.

Israel said it struck a group of armed men who had approached the border fence with Israel.

The attack took place hours after troops killed a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old – members of the same extended family – in northern Gaza.

Another 10-year-old was seriously wounded and six other people, all civilians, were slightly hurt, Dr Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

The army said soldiers targeted two figures spotted near a rocket launcher in an area where a rocket had been fired into Israel earlier.

Palestinian rocket teams have been known to send young children to retrieve rocket launchers after projectiles are fired, it added.

Earlier Palestinian medical sources said two children and three militants from the radical Islamic Jihad group have been killed in separate Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip.

In a text message to journalists in Gaza, Islamic Jihad said the three gunmen were killed east of the town of Khan Yunis as a result of a direct hit.

An army spokesman said that the military "attacked and identified hitting three armed gunmen that were identified close to the security fence in the central Gaza Strip."

He added that soldiers "recovered weapons from the bodies."

Later an Israeli raid on Beit Hanun in the north of the territory killed two young Palestinians, according to another medical source who named the victims as nine-year-old Fadi al-Qassana and Abed Yussef al-Qassana, 12.

The Israeli military confirmed to AFP "an attack against two people with a rocket launcher in the Beit Hanun sector from where rockets were fired earlier at Israel."

It said two rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel, without causing casualties or damage.

The military said one exploded near a kindergarten in the southern town of Sderot, a regular target for rocket attacks from Gaza.

An Israeli military spokesman said later it was "likely that the children who were killed had been sent by the terrorists to recover the rocket launchers, as has been the case on several occasions in the past."

Israeli warplanes also launched an attack yesterday on a building in Rafah on the border with Egypt in which it targeted members of Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Palestinian security sources said.

One Palestinian was killed in that attack, they said.

Israel has carried out a number of strikes and incursions inside Gaza since Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state, took control of the territory in mid-June.

On Monday, six Hamas militants were killed in an Israeli strike on a jeep in the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.

The latest deaths took to 5,832 the number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence since the start of the second Palestinian uprising in 2000, the vast majority of them Palestinian, according to a newswire agency AFP count.