In first, Egypt allows fuel into blockaded Gaza Strip

Move is reportedly based on earlier understandings between Egypt, Hamas and Mohammed Dahlan

By Nour Abu Aisha

The Egyptian authorities on Wednesday allowed several trucks laden with industrial fuel into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to allow the enclave’s only functioning power plant to resume operations following a two-month hiatus.

The move is reportedly based on previous “understandings”, which had not been announced, between Egypt, Hamas — which has governed the strip since 2007 — and Mohammed Dahlan, a former leading member of the Fatah movement currently based in the United Arab Emirates.

“Egyptian fuel is now being brought into the Gaza Strip through the Rafah border crossing,” a security source in the Gaza Strip confirmed to Anadolu Agency on Wednesday.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to media, said that a total of one million liters of industrial diesel fuel was expected to be allowed into the strip.

Leading Hamas member Khalil al-Hayya said earlier that Egypt had promised to help alleviate Gaza’s dire humanitarian situation by opening the Rafah crossing on a regular basis to allow commercial and human traffic into and out of the coastal strip.

On June 12, a Hamas delegation returned to Gaza from Cairo after a week-long visit during which delegation members had met with Egyptian intelligence officials.

Wednesday’s fuel shipments represent the first time for the Egyptian authorities to allow the entry of industrial fuel into Gaza through the Rafah crossing.

The Egyptian diesel will replace fuel previously sent by the Ramallah-based Palestinian government through the Kerem Shalom crossing linking Gaza, Egypt and Israel.

Those shipments were halted earlier this year after Hamas refused to pay the exceptionally high taxes that were being levied on it by the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority (PA), forcing Gaza’s only power plant to halt operations.

During the brief tenure of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, industrial diesel fuel had been sent into the strip from Egypt through smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt’s first freely elected president, Morsi was ousted and imprisoned — after only one year in office — in a bloody military coup in 2013 led by then Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.

Since becoming president himself in 2014, al-Sisi has spared no effort to destroy the smuggling tunnels upon which Gaza had relied for the import of basic commodities, including fuel.

Since its only functioning power plant went offline in mid-April, the Gaza Strip has suffered from a severe electricity shortage.

Notably, Egypt’s abrupt decision to allow fuel into Gaza comes shortly after Israel began sharply reducing the amount of electricity being supplied to the territory, which has fallen by some 24 megawatts over the past three days alone.

Israel, for its part, says the reductions were based on a request by the PA.

Before the reductions, Israel had supplied the Gaza Strip with 120 megawatts of electricity (out of 450 megawatts needed), which had represented the strip’s main source of energy after the power plant went offline in April.

Notably, the same month saw Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads up both the Ramallah government and the PA, vow to take “unprecedented steps” aimed at pressuring Hamas to relinquish control of the coastal territory.

Since 2007, the Gaza Strip’s roughly two million inhabitants have groaned under a crippling Israeli-Egyptian blockade — now in its tenth year — that has deprived them of many basic commodities, including food, fuel and medicine.

As a result, some 80 percent of the coastal enclave’s population now reportedly depends on international aid to survive.