Sus­pended Gaza fuel deal hits peace bid

CRIP­PLING BLOCK­ADE: Is­raeli min­is­ter or­ders the de­liv­er­ies to stop af­ter clashes on the Gaza-is­rael bor­der

Oman Daily Observer - - REGION -

RA­MAL­LAH: By sus­pend­ing bad­lyneeded fuel de­liv­er­ies to the Gaza Strip af­ter deadly overnight clashes, Is­rael has cast doubts on the vi­a­bil­ity of the hard-won mea­sure aimed at help­ing the Pales­tinian peo­ple and eas­ing ten­sions.

The deal, bro­kered by the United Na­tions and backed by the United States, Is­rael and oth­ers, had seen thou­sands of litres of Qatari-bought fuel trucked into Gaza daily to boost the im­pov­er­ished ter­ri­tory’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply.

But only days af­ter be­ing brought into ef­fect, Is­raeli De­fence Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man late on Fri­day or­dered the de­liv­er­ies to stop af­ter clashes on the Gaza-is­rael bor­der.

De­spite hopes the fuel would help ease months of deadly vi­o­lence, thou­sands of pro­test­ers gath­ered again on Fri­day at the bor­der fence. The Is­raeli army said five peo­ple were shot dead af­ter “an or­gan­ised at­tack” on an army post, us­ing an ex­plo­sive de­vice which de­stroyed part of the fence.

The Gaza health min­istry said seven Pales­tini­ans were killed.

The fuel deal had been reached without the agree­ment of the of­fi­cially recog­nised Pales­tinian govern­ment, in what diplo­mats said was a first for Gaza — which is con­trolled by the Pales­tinian fac­tion, Ha­mas.

And it had also raised ques­tions on whether Pales­tinian Pres­i­dent Mah­mud Ab­bas is slowly be­ing side­lined.

The Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity (PA) headed by Ab­bas has semi au­ton­omy in parts of the oc­cu­pied West Bank, but lost con­trol of Gaza to Ha­mas in a near-civil war in 2007. But the PA has long been the only ad­dress for most in­ter­na­tional pow­ers and a se­nior of­fi­cial de­clared on Thurs­day it would no longer work with the UN en­voy who bro­kered the deal.

The UN and other par­ties say they are merely seek­ing to im­prove the des­per­ate hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in the strip, un­der a crip­pling Is­raeli block­ade for a decade.

More than two thirds of Gaza’s two mil­lion res­i­dents rely on aid, while there are only four hours of mains elec­tric­ity a day.

Great ef­forts were made to con­vince Ab­bas to agree to the fuel deal, UN and diplo­matic sources said, with a de­ci­sion ul­ti­mately made to work around him.

“The hu­man­i­tar­ian im­per­a­tive is more im­por­tant than the re­la­tion­ship with the PA,” one diplo­mat said.

There has been crit­i­cism of the PA that it has done lit­tle to ease the suf­fer­ing of Gazans over the past decade and Ab­bas has even taken puni­tive mea­sures against the strip to squeeze Ha­mas.

But the Pales­tinian Au­thor­ity fears the United States, which is due to an­nounce a peace pro­posal, and oth­ers may seek to fur­ther split Gaza from the West Bank, dim­ming al­ready slim hopes for a two-state so­lu­tion be­tween a Pales­tinian en­tity and Is­rael.

Western diplo­mats fear Ab­bas may now take new steps, or even cut off some ties with in­ter­na­tional pow­ers.

“We could end up choos­ing be­tween work­ing with the PA and eas­ing the hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion in Gaza,” one diplo­mat in Jerusalem warned.

— Reuters

Rel­a­tives of Pales­tinian Mo­hammed Ab­bas, who was killed at the Is­rael-gaza bor­der fence, mourn dur­ing his fu­neral in Gaza City on Satur­day.

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