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Fuel Shortage in Gaza Strip Due to Unrest in Egypt, Rafah Crossing Closed

Egypt unrest causes fuel shortage in Gaza Strip

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA | Sat Jan 29, 2011 3:49pm EST

GAZA (Reuters) -

Gaza Strip residents flocked to petrol stations on Saturday after clashes in neighboring Egypt hampered smugglers ferrying fuel supplies through tunnels that run under the border into the enclave, witnesses said.

Merchants and tunnellers said the pace of smuggling of fuel and other materials had dropped in recent days and reached its lowest level on Saturday as clashes between Egyptian residents of north Sinai and security forces intensified.

Fearing that makeshift fuel pipes that run through the smuggling tunnels would soon dry up completely, Gaza car owners filled their tanks to the brim and also took extra cans to stock up with additional supplies.

"Move now and fill your car," read a mobile phone text message that Gazans circulated.

A statement issued by Hamas officials tried to calm fears by saying that there was no shortage of any goods in the coastal strip but it did not deter drivers from filling their cars.

Palestinians get most of their fuel from Egypt through a network of underground tunnels.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak sent troops and armored cars into Egyptian cities on Friday in an attempt to quell street fighting and mass protests demanding an end to his 30-year rule.

Egyptian troops have a high presence in Rafah and police the border to try to prevent the smuggling of munitions and goods into the Gaza Strip that is partially blockaded by Israel.

Sounds of gunfire and explosions on the Egyptian side of the border could be heard across the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah where Hamas security forces have been placed on high alert to prevent any possible breach of the border fence.

A Hamas interior ministry spokesman said the border was "secure and there were no violations" and the group added later that Egypt told them it would close Rafah border crossing on Sunday, possibly for a number of days.

Only a few dozen tunnels remain along Gaza's border with Egypt due to repeated Israeli air strikes and a stepped-up security crackdown by Egypt. Three years ago hundreds were used to smuggling munitions for militant factions.

Israel tightened its land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip in 2007 after Gaza militants abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in a cross-border raid.

Tunnellers have said their business has become less lucrative because of the increased risk that has raised prices and because Israel has eased its restrictions on the importation of civilian goods and has allowed goods to be exported from the territory.

Egyptian uprising not a threat to Gaza fuel supply

 [ 30/01/2011 - 10:09 AM ]


Tunnels used to get goods into the Gaza Strip from Egypt are still operating, informed sources say. And an interruption in the flow of goods is not a concern, they add.

The Israeli economic blockade has forced Gazans to rely on the tunnels to import fuels and other commodities.

Rumors had spread that the popular uprising in Egypt had interrupted the flow of fuel pumped from Egypt through tunnels.

Fuel stations in Gaza have been overwhelmed since Saturday.

The Palestinian government is closely following developments in Egypt and their impact on the Palestinian arena amid confidence and great hope in the future, those sources tell the PIC.

"What matters at this stage is ensuring that Gaza lives in stability and peace, that food is available, that the tunnels remain operating, and that there is a quantity of fuel in the Gaza Strip."

Gaza's Finance Ministry said fuels and food are available in the Gaza Strip in sufficient quantity, and there is no need to worry.

Border Authority: Rafah Crossing will remain closed Sunday

[ 30/01/2011 - 10:11 AM ]


 The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt will not open to travelers on Sunday, border authorities say.

"The border authority contacted Egyptian officials who said the Rafah border crossing will not open Sunday," said Palestinian border authority chief Ghazi Hammad. The closure is expected to last for days, he added.

Hammad is calling on Egyptian authorities to open the crossing, saying its closure will be very harmful to travelers, especially those with medical referrals.

Traveler movement ran naturally on Wednesday and Thursday, he said. 500 travelers had flowed out of the Gaza Strip against about 200 arrivals.

Egypt had reopened the Rafah Crossing to specific categories of Palestinians on June 1, 2010, after a full three-year closure in wake of Israel's attack on the Freedom Flotilla.

It is closed Fridays and Saturdays as days off for workers there.

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