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Gaza witnesses worsening fuel crisis
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21:49, April 02, 2008

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Tens of vehicles queued on the street leading to Bahloul petrol station in northern Gaza city Wednesday, hoping to get fed after rushing between gas stations for supply.

After three days of outage, Bahloul petrol station received around 1,200 liters of diesel on Wednesday, a portion its manager Abu Hossni Salah said was far from sufficient for the cars waiting outside.

"This puts me in an embarrassing situation. Some drivers have been waiting here for two days," but cars for emergency situation or public facilities such as ambulances, municipal trucks and taxies, need to be served first, Salah said.

"I don't have the magic stick to resolve all their problems," Salah said referring to drivers' fury over gas shortage. Salah said his station, at its best, runs for five to six hours for three days out of a week.

Israel sealed off the Gaza Strip in June after the Islamic Hamas movement routed security forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by force and gradually reduced fuel shipments in response to what it calls Hamas-backed rocket attacks against southern Israel.

Every week, Israel allows 800,000 liters of diesel into the Hamas-ruled enclave, meeting only 30 percent of the needs of the 1.5 million population there. As for gasoline, Israel sends 70,000 liters per week while Gaza needs about 840,000 liters. Abu Ahmed Abdullah, 52, a taxi driver, said his car has been waiting for refill for three days.

"Everyday of waiting means a loss for me and for my family. I don't have any other source of income to provide for them," said Abdullah, who has a family of ten to feed.

"I understand that most of the reduced shipments go to serve the humanitarian sides ... but I don't understand the criteria that service stations apply when it comes to filling the cars of ordinary people," the driver said, refuting what he said "the claims" of the station's manager that taxis were considered among the top priority.

Another driver, who refused to give his name, blamed Hamas for the fuel crisis. "They seize the fuel to ensure that their cars will not stop and that (Hamas leader Ismail) Haneya's convoy will continue to work."

In the teeth of being fired by President Abbas after Hamas' violent takeover of Gaza, the Hamas government led by Haneya continues to rule the impoverished enclave.

Instead of lining up for fuel supply, vehicles of Hamas police and security services bypass the long queues and go straight to the electric fuel pump.

In March, a single liter of gasoline costs 5.99 New Israeli Shekels (1.65 U.S. dollars) and diesel for 5.71 Shekels (1.57 U.S. dollars) in Gaza.

Mahmoud al-Khozendar, deputy director of the Union of Gaza Service Stations Owners, said the union ordered gas stations to withhold services in order to prevent people from selling fuel a thigh prices in illegal ways.

The union also asked Hamas government to crack down on those selling fuel in black markets.

Source: Xinhua

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