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Hamas said to reject Egyptian fuel offer as Gaza energy crisis deepens

Egypt has promised to provide diesel fuel for the Gaza Strip’s sole power station, which has been operating for only several hours a day since Tuesday amid plummeting temperatures.

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Palestinians attend a rally in front of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on February 18, 2012 during a sit-in by dozens of emergency crews and ambulance workers demanding Egypt provide the Gaza Strip with electricity and diesel. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt has reportedly promised to provide diesel fuel for the Gaza Strip’s sole power station, which has been operating for only several hours a day since Tuesday amid plummeting temperatures.

The crisis emerged over the past week after Egypt stopped the smuggling of gas through underground tunnels to Gaza.

Agence France-Presse quoted Ahmad Abu al-Amrin of Gaza's Energy Authority as saying late Saturday that: "Following our contacts with Egyptian officials, there have been serious promises to furnish us fuel from tomorrow." 

However, the Jerusalem Post cited Amrin as saying later that Hamas leaders had rejected the Egyptian proposal to bring in gas via an Israeli crossing point due to Hamas’ previous experience with the "Zionist occupation."

"This is unacceptable because of our bitter experience with the Zionist occupation [Israel] and the way it controls the delivery of the shipments," Ahmed Abu Al-Amreen, of Gaza's Hamas-run energy authority, told reporters.

Abu Al-Amreen said that Hamas had proposed bringing the Egyptian fuel via the Rafah crossing or direct underground pipelines.

To highlight the need for urgent Egyptian intervention, dozens of Palestinian medical personnel held a sit-in at Gaza’s Rafah crossing into Egypt on Saturday, AFP wrote.

Amrin said that when the power went down, he had called on Egypt "to assume its historical responsibility in supporting the resistance of the Palestinian people by ensuring they had all the necessary fuel to operate the plant."

Gaza's Hamas Prime Minister, Ismail Haniya, has also appealed to Cairo for help in providing a more permanent supply of energy, warning that the territory was facing a "real humanitarian crisis."

(GlobalPost reports: Fears of humanitarian crisis as Gaza power plant runs out of fuel)

However, YNet news also pointed to reports emerging that the energy crisis was a sham, quoting Khalil Abu Shamala, director of the Addameer Center for Human Rights, as saying that Gaza had enough diesel oil to operate the power station and that a large amount of fuel was transferred into the Strip earlier this week.

According to YNet: "Palestinian sources are pointing to three explanations for the cessation of fuel supply: Recent attacks by Bedouin tribes and terror cells against Egyptian elements; Egypt's desire to increase profits on fuel; and an attempt by Cairo to signal to Hamas to accept Mahmoud Abbas as head of the provisional Palestinian government. They explained that Cairo knew what points in Gaza to pressure when dissatisfied with Hamas' conduct."

Gaza's energy authority denied the claims.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120219/hamas-said-reject-egyptian-fuel-offer-