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Egypt delivers million litres of fuel to ease Gaza power crisis

Palestinian officials say Egyptian fuel aid will be enough to provide Gaza with two to three days of electricity
Palestinian security forces stand guard as Egyptian fuel trucks through the Rafah border crossing on June 21, 2017 (AFP)

Egypt began on Wednesday to deliver a million litres of fuel to Gaza, a Palestinian official said, in an attempt to ease the Palestinian enclave's desperate electricity crisis.

The fuel, trucked in through the Rafah border between Egypt and Gaza, will be routed to the territory's only power station closed since April due to fuel shortages.

The deliveries come two days after Israel began reducing its electricity supplies to Gaza, following Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to stop paying for them.

Wael Abu Omar, the Rafah crossing spokesman, told AFP that eight shipments had entered, with a further 14 expected later in the day.

"A million litres (220,000 gallons) of fuel for the power plant will enter today," he said.

That is enough to enable the power station to operate for two to three days, Samir Moutair, director general of the Gaza electricity company, told AFP.

Israel is knowingly aggravating an already dangerous situation in which the strip is teetering on the verge of a humanitarian crisis

- Israeli Human Rights Group Gisha

Residents of impoverished Gaza - where two million people live fenced in between Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean - were already receiving only a few hours of mains power before this week.

Israel had been supplying 120 megawatts of electricity to Gaza a month, making up around a quarter of the territory's needs, with the Abbas-run Palestinian Authority paying the $12.65m monthly bill.

But after Abbas announced he would no longer pay, the Israel Electric Corporation said power supply would "effectively be reduced on two lines out of 10 every day, until the reduction applies to all 10 lines".

The move threatened to leave Gazans with as little as two hours of power a day, prompting a UN warning that basic services in the enclave faced "total collapse".

The Egyptian response temporarily eases the crisis and Abu Omar said further deliveries were expected before Saturday, ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid ul-Fitr making the end of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

Abbas's decision to cut funding came amid a persistent rift with rival Palestinian movement Hamas, which runs Gaza.

The Islamist group seized control of Gaza from Abbas's Fatah movement in a near civil war in 2007 and multiple attempts at reconciliation have failed.

However, the Palestinian Authority continued to pay Israel for some electricity delivered to Gaza until this month.

Israeli human rights group Gisha said on Monday that by reducing supplies, "Israel is knowingly aggravating an already dangerous situation in which the strip is teetering on the verge of a humanitarian crisis".

Hamas, which swept Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 but remains blacklisted as a terrorist group by the European Union and the United States, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

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