IDF officer warns Gaza fuel shortage could spark war
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IDF officer warns Gaza fuel shortage could spark war

Senior military official says army saw Syrian gas attack happen ‘in real time,’ notes war between US, North Korea could affect Israeli security

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's military correspondent.

A power plant in Gaza City is pictured from behind a fence on April 16, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
A power plant in Gaza City is pictured from behind a fence on April 16, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

A senior Israeli army officer warned on Tuesday that an impending power outage in the Gaza Strip could lead to a conflict between Hamas and Israel.

The coastal enclave is on track to completely run out of fuel for its power plant due to a spat over taxes between Hamas, which rules the Strip, and the Mahmoud Abbas-led Palestinian Authority.

“The story there is Hamas’s dilemma — to where do you put the money? In military channels or for civilian needs in the Strip?” the officer told journalists, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“There’s a chance this could lead Hamas to a clash with Israel,” he added.

The IDF has long warned of the security implications of a full-blown humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

According to Palestinian sources, Abbas could soon cut off all funding for power in Gaza, in a move that would greatly exacerbate the crisis.

A Palestinian woman helps her son study by candlelight, at their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19, 2017. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)
A Palestinian woman helps her son study by candlelight, at their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, April 19, 2017. (AFP/MAHMUD HAMS)

Fuel supply for the Strip’s two million inhabitants has been a long-running source of dispute. As of last week, Gazans had just four hours of electricity each day, followed by 12-hour blackouts, down from two eight-hour periods of electricity a day when the plant is operating normally and supplies are coming in from outside the enclave.

The Strip’s hospitals are also believed to be on the verge of running out of reserve fuel for its generators in the coming days.

The Hamas-controlled energy authority is demanding that the Palestinian Authority pays the tax as it has done since 1994 but the PA, run by the rival Fatah party, is refusing.

Chemical attack in ‘real time’

During the briefing with reporters, the senior official also discussed the IDF’s activities beyond Israel’s northern borders.

An Israeli strike in Syria last month took out “100 missiles that were bound for Hezbollah,” he said.

An F-16 takes off for a training sortie at the Nevatim airbase, 2009 (photo credit:Ofer Zidon /Flash90)
Illustrative photo of an F-16 taking off for a training sortie at the Nevatim airbase, 2009. (photo credit: Ofer Zidon/Flash90)

On March 17 Israeli aircraft “targeted several targets in Syria,” the IDF said at the time.

In response, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s military fired multiple surface-to-air missiles at the Israeli jets. One of the missiles was intercepted by Israel’s Arrow 2 defense system, in the first reported use of the system.

The officer reiterated the army’s stance that it does not coordinate its airstrikes with Russia ahead of time.

The senior official said Israel monitored “in real time” the sarin gas attack widely attributed to the Assad regime earlier this month in Khan Sheikhoun, in the country’s northern Idlib province.

This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)
This photo provided Tuesday, April 4, 2017 by the Syrian anti-government activist group Edlib Media Center, which has been authenticated based on its contents and other AP reporting, shows victims of a suspected chemical attack, in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, northern Idlib province, Syria. (Edlib Media Center, via AP)

Taking a wider scope, the officer turned to North Korea and its rising tensions with the United States. He warned that should the two countries go to war, it could put a strain on Israeli security, as the Jewish state would likely not get the same level of support as it usually does from its strategic ally.

Looking back home, the officer referred to an incident last week, in which settlers attacked IDF troops in the West Bank. He lamented the fact that when those who attack Israeli soldiers are caught, they are released almost immediately.

“We arrest them constantly, and after a few hours they are let ago — instead of sitting in prison for months,” he said.

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