Israel limits fuel shipments to Gaza after rocket fire, curbing power production

Officials say amount of fuel sent through border to power plant halved until further notice; Hamas warns move contradicts the understandings with Israel

Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)
Israeli trucks carrying diesel fuel enter the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Israel-Gaza border, October 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

Israel announced Monday it has reduced fuel shipments to the Gaza Strip’s power plant in response to recent rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave.

A statement from the Defense Ministry’s liaison to the Palestinians said it would halve the amount of fuel sent through the Kerem Shalom crossing, effective immediately.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, or COGAT, said the downsizing of shipments was ordered by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is also defense minister.

The move was condemned by Hamas, which called on international mediators to intervene.

“The decrease contradicts the understandings with Israel. This is collective punishment that violates all international laws,” a spokesman for the terror group was quoted saying by the Kan public broadcaster.

Since the outbreak of protests on the Gaza border last year, Israel has intermittently taken a number of steps to curb outbreaks of violence from the coastal territory, such as closing border crossings, cutting fuel shipments and reducing the permitted fishing area off the coast of the Strip. It has rolled back such moves following decreases in violence.

An Iron Dome interceptor explodes in mid-air over the town of Sderot, apparently as it shoots down an incoming rocket from the Gaza Strip, on August 25, 2019. (Screen capture: Instagram)

The COGAT announcement came after terrorists in Gaza fired three rockets at southern Israel Sunday, two of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome defense system.

In response, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of airstrikes on targets in the northern Gaza Strip overnight.

The Israel Defense Forces said it had hit targets on “a military base belonging to the Hamas terror group in northern Gaza, including the office of a Hamas battalion commander.”

The rocket attack came amid heightened tensions throughout the Middle East, as Israel squared off against its nemesis Iran and its proxies in multiple countries.

Tehran provides tens of millions of dollars each year to terror groups in the Gaza Strip, mainly to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which rules the enclave.

Hamas denied Monday it was behind the latest rocket fire.

“Hamas announces its operations and this isn’t what happened yesterday. These are excuses to continue the aggression against Gaza,” spokesman Hazem Qassim was quoted saying by Kan.

Israel says it holds the terror group that rules Gaza responsible for all attacks emanating from the territory.

Explosions seen in the Gaza Strip on Monday August 26, apparently caused by IAF strikes after three rockets were fired into Israel (Screencapture/Twitter)

Last week, rockets were fired at Israel from the enclave late Wednesday and early Thursday, prompting Israeli reprisal attacks.

The IDF on Thursday blamed the Iran-backed Islamic Jihad for the increase in violence from Gaza and called for Hamas to rein in the terror group. “We do not plan to accept terror attacks and rocket fire against our citizens,” the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson Avichay Adraee tweeted.

On Friday, Qatari envoy Mohammed Al-Emadi entered Gaza, carrying his latest delivery of cash from Doha as part of an unofficial ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Distribution of the funds began Sunday morning.

The payments are part of a wider agreement brokered by UN and Egyptian officials to end several violent flareups in recent months between Israel and Hamas, which have fought three devastating wars since 2008, and to help stabilize the territory and prevent a humanitarian collapse.

AFP and Judah Ari Gross contributed to this report.

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