[DEBATE] : GAZA-POWER
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Mon Jan 21 13:24:35 GMT 2008
GAZA CITY January 21 Sapa-AFP
GAZA ENDURES FOURTH DAY OF ISRAELI BLOCKADE
By Joseph Krauss
Gaza endured a fourth day of hardship Monday as Israel vowed to maintain a
punishing blockade in response to rocket fire from the Hamas-run territory,
despite increasing international concern over a developing humanitarian
The European Union slammed what it termed as "collective punishment" of
impoverished Gaza's 1.5 million residents, while the United Nations called
on Israel to open the territory's crossings to ease a "desperate" situation
in a zone where most people depend on foreign aid.
Generators hummed across Gaza City after the territory's sole power plant
shut down late Sunday after it ran out of fuel, plunging entire blocks into
With Gaza crossings closed and fuel for generators slowly running out, the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned that hospitals in the
territory only had a few days' worth of fuel to run their generators.
"There are reserves for two, maximum three days for the functioning" of
hospitals in Gaza, ICRC spokeswoman in Jerusalem, Michele Mercier, told AFP.
"Hospital medication reserves continue to decrease," she said. "If our truck
with medicine does not enter Gaza tomorrow, this can cause a major problem."
But Israel dismissed warnings of a humanitarian meltdown, saying Hamas was
exaggerating the situation in the territory that had reserves.
"Hamas is deliberately intensifying the crisis in the Gaza Strip in order to
create pressure from the international community on Israel," Prime Minister
Ehud Olmert told visiting Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen.
"Israel will not allow a humanitarian crisis in Gaza," a senior government
official quoted him as saying. "But the population has to understand that as
long as Hamas rules there, we will provide them only with the bare
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner hit out against
what she called the "collective punishment of the people of Gaza. I urge the
Israeli authorities to restart fuel supplies and open the crossings for the
passage of humanitarian and commercial supplies."
A spokesman for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) Christopher
Gunness told AFP: "It is a desperate humanitarian situation that continues
to deteriorate alarmingly."
And main UN spokesman in Jerusalem Richard Miron called on the Israelis to
make a "positive decision later today to allow fuel shipments and medicines
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak ordered the crossings into Gaza closed
late on Thursday, saying the move was aimed at pressuring militants inside
to stop firing rockets and mortars into Israel.
The move came amid peak winter demand for fuel and with Gaza already
reeling from previous restrictions that Israel imposed after Islamist Hamas
violently took power in the territory seven months ago.
Amid mounting international concern, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak phoned
Olmert to warn "of the deteriorating humanitarian situation resulting from
Arab League officials gathered in Cairo for an emergency meeting to discuss
the lockdown after chief Amr Mussa warned Israeli actions could hamper the
revived Middle East peace talks.
Israel's arch-foe Iran called on foreign ministers of Islamic states to
hold an emergency meeting on the Gaza crisis and in Lebanon's largest
refugee camp, about 350 demonstrators protested the Israeli lockdown by
setting fire to Israeli and US flags and chanting "revenge, revenge."
Hamas said the Israeli measures amounted to a "slow death" for the territory
and called for international intervention and Palestinian president Mahmud
Abbas also "called on the Israeli government to lift its blockade of Gaza
Since Tuesday, Israeli raids have killed 37 people, including 19 in a single
day, while militants, who account for most of the casualties, launched some
200 rockets or mortar rounds into Israel, wounding at least 10 people.
/fws 01/21/08 15-06 5C
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