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Electricity Returns to Gaza After EU Resumes Funding

Electrical power is back on in the Gaza Strip after the European Union cut off fuel supplies in a dispute with the Islamic militant group Hamas. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the cut off was another sign of Western displeasure with Hamas, which took control of Gaza in a violent conflict with the more moderate Fatah group.

The European Union has resumed funding fuel shipments into Gaza, ending four days of blackouts that plunged much of the impoverished territory into darkness. About half of Gaza's population of 1.4 million Palestinians have been without electricity for most of the last four days with summer temperatures soaring.

The crisis erupted after the EU stopped paying for fuel imported from Israel, which supplies Gaza's biggest power plant. The European Union accused Hamas of misusing the funds and trying to generate revenue from humanitarian aid by imposing an electricity tax on Gaza residents. The Hamas-run government in Gaza has been boycotted by Western nations, precipitating a financial crisis.

Both the European Union and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

EU spokeswoman Antonia Mochan says fuel shipments resumed "...once we received the appropriate assurances that all the funds will be exclusively used for the benefit of the Gaza population."

Hamas seized control of Gaza during a civil war with the rival and more moderate Fatah faction two months ago. Since then, trade between Israel and Gaza has plummeted, leading to shortages in food and raw materials.

Hisham Abdel-Razek, a Fatah official in Gaza, blamed both Hamas and the EU for the latest crisis.

He says the Palestinian people are caught in the middle of a power struggle, and, he says, they are the losers.