UN humanitarian agency calls on Israel to let fuel into Gaza Strip
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UN humanitarian agency calls on Israel to let fuel into Gaza Strip

International body warns that restricting the supplies is 'a dangerous practice, with grave consequences,' and risks an increase of waterborne disease and outbreaks

A gas truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on August 6, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)
A gas truck at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza on August 6, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/ Flash90)

A UN aid agency on Wednesday urged Israel to let emergency fuel into the Gaza Strip to avert the shutdown of hospitals and sanitation facilities.

Jamie McGoldrick, from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, called Israel’s restriction of fuel imports “a dangerous practice, with grave consequences on the rights of people in Gaza.”

Israel halted the supply of petroleum and natural gas to Gaza last week after there was no pause in incendiary kites and balloons launched from Gaza into southern Israel, arson attacks that have gone on for months accompanied by border clashes. The violence has at times escalated into exchanges of fire on the border, rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israeli cities, and Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets.

Israel temporarily suspended fuel shipments to Gaza in July for similar reasons. The airborne arson attacks have started hundreds of fires that consumed thousands of acres of farmland and countryside, causing millions of shekels in damage.

“The well-being of two million people, half of whom are children, is at stake,” McGoldrick said. “It is unacceptable that Palestinians in Gaza are repeatedly deprived of the most basic elements of a dignified life.”

This photo taken on July 31, 2017 shows a Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply they receive every day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)
A Palestinian woman ironing clothes during the few hours of electricity supply that Gaza receives each day, at Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip, July 31, 2017. (AFP/ SAID KHATIB)

“The reduced functioning of water and sanitation facilities risks an increase of waterborne disease and outbreaks,” OCHA said in a statement.

A decade-long Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed since Hamas seized power in Gaza in 2007 has left the coastal territory with crippling fuel shortages and Gazans with just a few hours of electricity a day.

Hamas, an Islamist terror group that seeks Israel’s destruction, seized control of Gaza in 2007 and pushed out the Fatah faction of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel says the blockade is in place in order to prevent weapons and other military equipment from entering the Strip. Egypt, too, has kept its Gaza border crossing largely closed during several years of sour relations with Hamas.

The OCHA statement said that according to local officials, at least 60,000 liters of fuel should be delivered to 46 “critical facilities” across Gaza in order to maintain the basic functioning of main hospitals as well as essential water and sanitation services.

The supplies would be enough for four days, the UN said, and noted that it distributes on average 950,000 liters of fuel each month for back up generators at around 250 hospitals, health clinics, water facilities, sewage sites, and waste collections sites, in Gaza.

Fires in fields adjacent to the Gazan border on June 3, 2018. (Screen capture: Ynet news)

On Tuesday, a senior Hamas official signaled the terror group was optimistic regarding efforts to broker a ceasefire with Israel, saying talks on an agreement would likely wrap up by the end of August.

According to the unnamed Hamas member, the deal would see the permanent opening of the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt and an easing of strictures on the flow of goods through the Kerem Shalom crossing with Israel.

Furthermore, the deal would require the complete cessation of the launching of incendiary airborne devices from Gaza toward Israeli territory, according to the Hamas member.

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