Israel has decided to lift the blockade on the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip Tuesday to allow a single shipment of fuel and medical supplies into the territory. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from our Jerusalem bureau.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak says he will allow a limited resumption of food and fuel supplies to Gaza, but he warned that Israel will not ease its pressure on the Gaza Strip to halt Palestinian militants from firing rockets at southern Israel.
Gaza City has been without power after the city's main power plant shut down when it ran out of fuel late Sunday. Last week Israel sealed its borders with Gaza cutting all supplies to Gaza as retaliation for continuing rocket fire against the southern Israeli town of Sderot.
U.N. officials warned that international food aid to hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents could be suspended by Thursday, because U.N. trucks would also run out of fuel. John Ging who heads U.N. operations in Gaza says the fuel cutoff is making life intolerable for Gaza's residents.
"Six hundred thousand people in Gaza City are without electricity and will be until the power plant can resume its operation. It just adds more to the misery," he said.
Israeli officials strongly defended the cutoff, saying rocket attacks against Israel dropped dramatically after the fuel cutoff resulted in the shutdown of the power plant. Foreign Ministry spokesman Ariyeh Mekel says Hamas militants who control Gaza can stop the attacks if they want to, saying Hamas was responsible for the crisis.
"What we see in Gaza is a fabrication by Hamas. The fact is that 70 percent of the electricity in Gaza is provided by Israel, through electricity cables and this is not dependent at all on the supply of fuel," he said.
A Hamas spokesman dismissed the Israeli action to ease the blockade saying Palestinian militants will continue to attack Israel.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who heads the rival Fatah organization also criticized the blockade, but he has proposed to take over Gaza's crossing points with Israel as a way of easing the crisis.
Hamas refuses to recognize Israel and Israel will have nothing to do with Hamas, but Israel does deal with Fatah security forces under Mr. Abbas' control.
Fatah forces were kicked out of Gaza by Hamas last June after a violent series of clashes. Since then Gaza's 1.5 million residents have lived under an ever-tightening international blockade.