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Gaza, Alray - Israel’s policy of hindering the economic development in the Gaza Strip through control of the commercial crossings is coming to a ‘turning point’ with the intermittent closing of only commercial border crossing, Karm Abu Salem. 

The crossing has been the sole access point for Gaza cooking gas supplies since the Nahal Oz crossing, which had been allocated for the delivery of fuel and cooking gas to the Gaza Strip, was completely closed early 2010.

Director of Petroleum Authority Abdel Nasir Muhanna said “the cooking gas shortage has yet to be resolved,” warning of chances about a looming catastrophe in the event of continuing closures of Karm Abu Salem crossing.

 “We don’t save an effort to increase the cooking gas quantities -120 tons- we’ve been receiving since the beginning of the crisis in November, 2011, to 250 tons as daily required, as well as the operating hours of the crossing.” Muhanna said.

“One and a half year past, cooking gas stocks in the 22 companies of Gaza have already run out, and the problem is compounding, reaching at a difficult-to-solve level.”

Official at Gaza petroleum companies consortium Sameer Hamada said “In order to fill the cylinders in thousands at the gas distribution stations, Gaza needs a minimum sustained amount of 500 tons over two weeks, so that we could get out of the bottleneck.”  

Fayiz Shehada, 55, from al-Shati refugee camp northwest of Gaza city, was down as he couldn’t refill his 12KG cylinder after touring a number of stations in his neighborhood to no avail. “My three cylinders have been empty since two weeks; I stand in long lines every time, but I come back with nothing,”

While Um Mahmoud Fayyad, a mother of 12, couldn’t help but using her babor (kerosene-lamp-converted-stoves used in Gaza when cooking gas is nonexistant) to serve food for her family.

“I have a big family; we need cooking gas to cook, and to heat water for showers; I tried to make less use of it, but I couldn’t. Now as babor is difficult to use, I’ve cut down on the daily cooking.”

Other than its impact on the domestic sector, the shortage extended to the private businesses. Economist Omar Shaban said “businesses like poultry farming is risky as it needs cooking gas to provide the farms with hot climates.”

Shaaban demanded the issue of commercial crossings be “excluded from the political conflict” and “stopped to be used as a means of collective punishment against more than 1.5 million people in the Gaza Strip.”

The cooking gas shortage surfaced last November although it had appeared in the wake of shutting down Nahal Oz crossing on January 4th, 2010. After that the transport of fuel and cooking gas supplies have been shifted to the Karm Abu Salem crossing, which is under-equipped to meet Gaza needs of cooking gas as it can receive just 200 tons per day. 

The (Israeli) government said on April 3rd that it “invested over 80 million NIS in developing and upgrading the infrastructure at Karm Abu Salem, in order of expanding the capacity of transferring goods into Gaza, and exporting goods from the Gaza Strip to overseas markets.”

However, the recurrent closing of the crossing doesn’t seem to correspond to its purported statement as the Israeli crossing authorities closed on April 26th the crossing reportedly due to ‘political reasons’.



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