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IDF allows fuel supplies into Gaza

By Mazal Mualem Ha'aretz Correspondent

Senior Israel Defense Forces officers decided to lift the blockade on the movement of fuel and gas supplies through the Karni crossing last Friday, ten days after it was imposed. The decision to set up the blockade was taken by officers in the Gaza Brigade following numerous shooting attacks on Israeli gas and fuel trucks.

The trucks had become a target, and it was just a matter of time before one of them exploded, a military source said.

By last weekend, gas for cooking purposes had almost completely run out in homes in Gaza, while filling stations were left with very little fuel. Despite pressure to continue with the measure from the Prime Minister's Office and the IDF, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh decided last Thursday to renew the supply of gas and fuel to Gaza, following discussions with the Finance Ministry Director-General Avi Ben Bassat, military officers, representatives of the Shin Bet security service and legal experts.

Sneh's decision was an attempt to avoid playing into the hands of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who would like to see Israel portrayed on CNN as depriving Palestinian babies of warm milk, according to an IDF officer who visited the Karni crossing yesterday.

The supply of gas and fuel was eventually renewed last Friday by Dor Energy, the sole supplier of these products to the Gaza Strip.

The deputy general manager of Dor Energy, Muli Or, visited the fuel depot at the Karni crossing yesterday and described the decision to suspend the supply as "mistaken." He said that Dor had suffered financial losses and that homes in Gaza had been left without gas for cooking. Since Friday, Or continued, some 400 tons of gas had been pumped into Gaza, but added that there was still a shortage of another 2,500 tons in the Strip.

The fuel and gas depot at the Karni crossing is designed to allow trucks to pump the gas or fuel into 250 meter-long underground pipes that link Israel and Gaza. The area around the crossing is currently being guarded by two IDF tanks

As part of the measures to ease the flow of goods to and from Gaza, the security establishment has also decided to permit the export of fruit, vegetables and flowers from Gaza, and as of yesterday, permits were also granted for iron, cement, agricultural fertilizers and raw materials for factories in the Karni industrial zone.

Sources in the security establishment said that allowing the joint industrial zone to perish would only cause damage and all efforts should be made to ensure its survival.

Director of the Karni crossing Yonatan Dotan told Sneh that since the unrest began, the average number of trucks passing through the crossing had fallen by some 50 percent.

Yesterday, around 250 trucks went through the crossing, including six laden with foodstuffs such as flour, sugar, coffee, rice and oil donated by Jordan and Egypt.

-- Martin Thompson (, November 28, 2000

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