Israel resumes Gaza fuel shipments
By DIAA HADID,Associated Press Writer AP - 1 hour 24 minutes ago
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Israel resumed fuel shipments to Gaza's only power plant Tuesday despite a tight border closure, allowing the facility to restart operations.
Israel sealed Gaza's borders last week, cutting off fuel shipments which are paid for by Europe and delivered through an Israeli-run crossing. After a request by peace envoy Tony Blair, Israel decided late Monday to resume the shipments on Tuesday.
The power plant was to receive 211,000 gallons of fuel Tuesday, said Alix de Mauny, a spokeswoman for the European Commission. She said she hoped there would be more deliveries in coming days.
The plant shut down Monday evening, cutting power to much of Gaza City but was partially started up again Tuesday.
The U.N. Relief and Works Agency, meanwhile, said it would halt food distribution in Gaza by Friday if the borders remain sealed. The distribution reaches about 750,000 people _ or more than half of Gaza's impoverished population. The agency said its warehouses are running out of lunch meat, oil, powdered milk and grain.
Internal Palestinian tensions also flared Tuesday, on the fourth anniversary of the death of iconic Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
During a memorial rally for Arafat in the West Bank, Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, harshly criticized his Hamas rivals. Hamas wrested control of Gaza from Abbas by force in June 2007, leaving him and his Fatah party in charge of the West Bank. Rifts have only deepened since then.
In his speech, Abbas held Hamas responsible for another failed reconciliation attempt. Over the weekend, Hamas pulled out of planned Egyptian-brokered unity talks at the last minute, demanding that Abbas first release Hamas prisoners in the West Bank.
"Now it's clear who is not serious (about reconciliation), and Arab countries should intercede and condemn Hamas," Abbas told the crowd.
He also accused Hamas of putting its own interests before those of the Palestinian people. "We will not call anybody a nonbeliever or traitor, as they do," he said. "They (Hamas supporters) must return to the lap of this homeland and start thinking of the interests of this homeland."
In Gaza, Hamas security forces prevented Fatah supporters movement from staging an Arafat memorial. Last year's gathering there drew some 250,000 people and turned into an expression of discontent with Hamas rule. Seven civilians were killed when Hamas police shot at stone throwers.
This year, Hamas did not issue rally permits. They also rounded up scores of Fatah activists and forced them to sign pledges that they would not participate in illegal gatherings, said Samir Zakout of the local human rights group Mezan.
Zakout said print shops were told ahead of the anniversary not to produce Fatah paraphernalia without permission from the Hamas government.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said "there are those who want to exploit this anniversary to bring chaos and anarchy back to Gaza's streets." He also accused Abbas of misrepresenting Hamas' positions in his speech.
The Gaza-Israel border, meanwhile, returned to calm Tuesday, after several days of tensions. Israel and Hamas had agreed to a cease-fire in June, and it was widely observed. However, last week Israeli forces entered Gaza in search of a militants' tunnel, setting of clashes that killed seven Hamas militants. The fighting triggered several days of rocket fire from Gaza onto Israeli border towns, causing no injuries.
In response, Israel sealed Gaza's borders; even before the closure, only a trickle of goods had been allowed in.
In an attempt to improve security, Israeli defense officials say the military has deployed remote-control machine guns along the border with Gaza.
Female soldiers watching television screens in control rooms in the rear can spot targets and open fire. In the past, lookouts had to call in ground forces to intercept militants.
Israel's military is shifting to more unmanned weaponry along the Gaza border in an attempt to protect soldiers. An Israeli company recently developed an unmanned vehicle to patrol the region.
The military had no immediate comment, and the officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the new weapons have not officially been made public.
Associated Press writers Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Matti Friedman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
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