Gaza's only power plant 'shuts down for lack of fuel'

Gaza's only power plant 'shuts down for lack of fuel'

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - The Gaza Strip's only power plant shut down Saturday due to a lack of fuel from Israel, which closed a goods crossing after militant rocket attacks, a Palestinian official said.

An Israeli official denied the claim, however, saying the lack of fuel was due to infighting between the Islamist Hamas movement ruling Gaza and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

On Thursday, Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon ordered the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing and the Erez pedestrian crossing "until further security assessments."

In response, the energy authority cut the plant's operation from only 12 hours a day to six until the fuel ran out.

"The plant has completely ceased to function due to a lack of fuel caused by (Israel's) closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing," said Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil, deputy director of the energy authority in the Palestinian territory.

An Israeli official denied that the Jewish state was to blame.

The shortage of fuel "is the result of an internal conflict between the Hamas government (which controls Gaza) and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah," said the source, on condition of anonymity and without elaborating.

"Kerem Shalom is always closed on Fridays and Saturdays, so it was only closed for an entire day on Thursday," he said.

The PA helps facilitate the delivery of fuel to Gaza via Israel, which Hamas does not recognise.

The facility, which supplies some 30 percent of Gaza's electricity needs, has been forced to shut down several times, most recently in December.