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Israel to open Kerem Shalom crossing on Friday to allow fuel into Gaza

April 13, 2017 3:54 P.M. (Updated: April 13, 2017 6:29 P.M.)
(File)
GAZA (Ma’an) -- Israeli authorities announced on Thursday that the Karam Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing between Israel and the besieged Gaza Strip would be opened for Friday in order to allow fuel to enter the small Palestinian territory.

Gaza’s borders committee reported that Israeli authorities had said that the crossing would be opened to allow the entry of a limited quantity of fuel as an exception to the crossing’s usual closures on Friday, which falls during the weekend for both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. The opening also comes amid a more than week-long closure of Gaza and the occupied West Bank for the Jewish holiday of Passover.

However, following Friday, the closure will resume until Monday for Passover.

The committee said that the last shipment of Qatari-funded fuel entered the Gaza Strip on Wednesday, and included 550 liters of diesel.

The Gaza power authority also said on Thursday that the power plant would stop operating on Sunday, when the Qatari-funded fuel is expected to run out.

The authority added that the primary reason for the potential shutdown was the Palestinian Authority's (PA) decision to continuing imposing taxes on fuel. If taxes were abolished, the authority would be capable of buying fuel from the PA to guarantee that the electricity plant keep operating, the statement said.

In a statement at the start of January, the authority noted that the taxes on fuel were “the biggest obstacle” preventing the electricity station in Gaza to run at full capacity, adding that the added costs prohibits the authority from purchasing sufficient quantities of fuel.

It added that 78 liters of fuel had entered the Gaza Strip in 2016 for the power plant, which had cost 259 million shekels ($70,885,000), of which 125 million shekels ($34,211,000) were taxes.

On Wednesday, Israeli authorities reopened the Karam Abu Salem crossing after a two-day closure to allow fuel into the territory. The crossing was then closed once again on Thursday.

The Israeli-controlled crossing serves as the only point through which commercial and industrial goods are allowed to enter the besieged coastal enclave, which has been suffering under a nearly decade-long Israeli blockade.

On Sunday, Gaza power authority director Fathi Sheikh Khalil warned of an “imminent aggravation” of the existing electricity crisis in the besieged coastal enclave, as the authority announced that it would soon run out of internationally funded fuel supplies and could not afford to buy the fuel itself.

Sheikh Khalil said during a news conference in Gaza City that in the past few months, Gaza's sole power plant had been running on fuel funded by Qatar and Turkey, which is quickly running out.

Meanwhile, UK-based organization Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) expressed alarm on Tuesday over the “tangible risk” that fuel shortages represented for patients in Gaza.

“The lack of fuel at Gaza hospitals is as dangerous as the lack of life-saving drug items. The absence of either one will cause the death of seriously ill patients,” MAP programs director Fikr Shaltout was quoted as saying.

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