Fuel crisis obliges Gazans to invent alternatives

April 26th, 2008 - 8:58 am ICT by admin  

Gaza, April 26 (Xinhua) Hisham Rezeq, a 32-year-old businessman in Gaza, bought a brand new car eight months ago, but he has to ride a bicycle to go to his workplace after Israel stopped fuel supplies to this coastal territory. “For us there is no other way. This (riding a bicycle) is now my only means of getting around,” said Rezeq, whose company is about four kilometres from his home.

The bicycle business is booming in the Gaza Strip in the of wake of the fuel crisis, according to dealers.

“The fuel crisis is definitely having a major influence, as more and more people turn to cycling,” said Mohammed al-Soussi, owner of a bicycle shop.

“I’m battling to get new bicycles,” al-Soussi said, complaining that he cannot get parts from outside because of the blockade imposed on Gaza.

Israel has shut down all Gaza crossings to the outside world since Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) routed security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas of rival Fatah and took control of the coastal enclave last June.

Recently, Israel reduced fuel supplies to Gaza after Palestinian gunmen attacked a fuelling depot on the Gaza-Israel border, killing two Israelis.

Subsequently, more than 90 percent of Gaza cars had to stop working. The lack of transportation has made it difficult for patients to access health care, students to reach their schools, and employees to travel to their workplaces.

Moreover, the fuel shortage has also grounded ambulances and forced the universities to suspend curriculum.

The life in the Gaza City has been totally paralysed, as streets are empty of everything but a handful of passers-by or a lucky taxi driver who managed to get a few litres of fuel from the black market at inflated prices.

“These days remind me of the first intifada when the Israelis used to impose curfews,” said Abu Hassan Ja’el, a waiter in a local cafe. “But the curfews were only for a few hours, not like now… It’s an open-ended curfew,” he added.

In such conditions of poverty, deprivation and desperation, Gazans are risking their lives to make a living and need obliged them to invent.

For taxi drivers, they used cooking gas as an alternative to fuel, but after all kinds of energy have been banned into Gaza, they sought cooking oil, which could cause the engine to break down and environmental and health problems.

“I have no other options,” said Sa’eed Abu Al-ouf who used to work as a plumber in Israel and make thousands of dollars each month. “I have kids and they must be fed.”

“Many people are coming to buy used cooking oil,” said Ehab Akila, a restaurant owner. “The prices of used oil have sky-rocketed to 10 shekels (nearly $3) per litre.”

Being pressured by the international community for its cut-off of fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip, Israel decided to pump about 260,000 gallons of diesel fuel to the Hamas-run territory, enough to run the local plant for at least three days.

Kaanan Obeid, a Palestinian energy official, had warned that the plant was in danger of shutting down if fuel was not delivered.

The plant supplies a third of the coastal territory’s electricity. The supplies from Israel have been irregular since Palestinians attacked the Israeli fuel depot two weeks ago.

According to Obeid, reserves of industrial-grade fuel have dwindled to 400,000 litres (106,000 gallons).

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