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Israel's Netanyahu slashes Gaza fuel imports in half

Israel will half the flow of fuel to the besieged strip's main power station [Anadolu/Getty]

Date of publication: 26 August, 2019

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Israel Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's decision to half the oil imports to Gaza will have a significant impact on electricity in the blockaded strip.

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will slash oil imports to Gaza by half, in response to recent rocket strikes.

Israeli authorities announced on Monday a punitive reduction in the flow of fuel to the besieged strip's main power station, meaning a deep cut in the already rationed electricity supply.

A statement by Major General Kamil Abu Rokon, the Coordinator of Government Activity in the Territories, said the reduced imports to Gaza's power station will continue until further notice.

Israeli warplanes hit the Gaza Strip's ruling Hamas movement early Monday in response to earlier rocket fire from the territory into Israel, the army said in a statement.

Three rockets were fired from Gaza into southern Israel on Sunday night, the Israeli army said.

"Three launches were identified from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory," it said in a statement. "Two of them were intercepted by the Iron Dome aerial defence system."

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"In response, a short while ago, (Israeli air force) fighter jets struck a number of terror targets in a Hamas military compound in the northern Gaza Strip, including the office of a Hamas battalion commander," a statement Monday morning added.

A Palestinian security source said there were no casualties.

A separate statement from Israeli defence ministry unit COGAT said the latest fuel cut was personally ordered by Netanyahu, who is also defence minister.

"The prime minister and minister of defence, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered to downsize the transfer of fuel through the Kerem Shalom (border) crossing to the power station in Gaza by half, effective this morning and until further notice," it said in English.

Netanyahu is fighting for reelection in a potentially tough general election on 17 September with critics from his right-wing power base calling for tougher action against the Islamist Hamas.

Nevertheless, analysts say, he is anxious to avoid escalation ahead of the polls.

Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza have fought three wars since 2008.

Since the start of August, an uptick in rocket fire and Palestinian attempts to cross from Gaza into Israel have been met with Israeli strikes, threatening a fragile ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Israel has also used fishing restrictions and fuel supplies as weapons, harshening and easing restrictions on the blockaded coastal strip according to circumstances.

Fuel deliveries, which are coordinated with the United Nations and paid for by Gulf state Qatar, were part of the truce agreement.

They have improved electricity supply in the enclave, where until the latest cut residents were getting around 12 hours of power a day, according to the UN.

In the past, the daily power supply was regularly as low as six hours.

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