Gaza City blacked out after rocket attacks
Power plant shut; Israel blocks food and faults Hamas
GAZA CITY - Gaza City was dark last night after officials shut down its only power plant as Israel cut off fuel and food shipments to the Palestinian territory because of renewed rocket attacks.
Israel canceled plans to ship in diesel fuel for the plant as well as 30 trucks full of humanitarian supplies after Gaza militants fired at least eight rockets and some mortar shells at Israel yesterday, the military said.
Renewed tensions in Gaza have raised the grim prospect of an end to a truce that has stopped most Israeli-Palestinian violence in and around the impoverished seaside territory for five months.
The truce began eroding last week when Israeli forces entered Gaza to try destroy what they said was a militants' tunnel. Eleven militants have been killed since and more than 130 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israel. Israel has clamped a tight blockade on Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas.
"The rockets are a natural response to [Israel's] aggression," said Fawzi Barhoum of Hamas.
Government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel wants quiet.
"The current round of violence is the sole responsibility of Hamas, who through their aggressive acts have endangered the lives of too many Israeli and Palestinian civilians," he said.
The truce ended months of rocket barrages that disrupted life in southern Israel and brought Israeli air strikes and ground operations. It is set to expire next month. Both sides have said they are interested in maintaining calm, but developments on the ground appear to be going in the other direction.
Though no one was hurt in the rocket attacks yesterday, Israel scrapped plans to allow small amounts of fuel and supplies into Gaza.
Kamal Obeid, a Hamas official at of the power plant, said fuel was running out and the facility would be shut down completely later yesterday. The move cuts off electricity to much of the city of 300,000.
Israelis say the plant provides less than a quarter of Gaza's electricity, and most of the rest flows in unimpeded on power lines from Israel. The tight quarantine is causing serious problems, according to UN officials. Richard Miron, spokesman for the UN Mideast peace mission.
"We renew our call for all sides to respect the calm," he said, charging that the blockade "hurts the people of Gaza and doesn't bring security to Israel."
Without more supplies, the UN will be forced to suspend food distribution to 750,000 needy Gazans beginning tomorrow, said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
"The UN has been very clear that we should not hand the agenda over to those who fire rockets," Ging said. "They shouldn't dictate whether the crossings are open or not for the civilian population here."