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Israel Accuses Hamas of Fabricating Humanitarian Crisis


Israel and militant Palestinian leaders in the Gaza Strip are trading accusations over an alleged fuel shortage. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza, is warning of dire consequences.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting, Israeli ministers blasted accusations by Hamas that Israel is sparking a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Hamas said it will have to shut down Gaza's main power plant if Israel does not resume fuel shipments. Deliveries were suspended last week after a cross-border Palestinian attack on a fuel depot that killed two Israeli civilians.

Hamas official Taher Alnunu said if Israel does not resume fuel supplies there will be an explosion and the Palestinian people will break the siege by force. That could mean storming the Egyptian border as they did in January, or possibly trying to storm the Israeli border.

An Israeli army spokesman, Major Peter Lerner, says there is plenty of fuel that was already transferred to a depot inside Gaza before supplies were temporarily suspended.

"There is fuel on the Palestinians side still waiting to be picked by the Palestinians. It is about 800,000 liters of diesel and another 140,000 liters of gasoline," said Lerner.

Lerner told Israel Radio that Hamas is to blame for the suspension of additional supplies.

"They have to first of all ask the question, 'Why do terrorists attack the only fuel depot for Gaza?', these terrorists working under the auspice of Hamas itself," he added.

Hamas said the fuel depot was attacked to protest Israel's crippling blockade on Gaza, which includes reductions in fuel and food supplies. Israel imposed the blockade in response to daily Palestinian rocket attacks, but says it is allowing in enough vital supplies to prevent a humanitarian crisis. Israeli officials say Hamas is fabricating a humanitarian crisis to bring condemnation on Israel and win international sympathy.

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