Blair Convinces Barak to Allow Fuel to Gaza

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Tony Blair, the European Union's Middle East envoy, convinced Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak Monday to transport fuel to the Gaza City power station.

Barak closed border crossings to the Gaza Strip this week following a renewed Kassam rocket onslaught on southern Israel.

"Last week we thwarted a strategic terror attack, in which a tunnel was dug toward Israeli territory for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli troops. And since then we have faced fire," Barak said.

"We are committed to the cease-fire," the defense minister said Monday, "but attempts to hurt Israeli civilians must cease. No country in the world would accept attempts to harm its citizens," he said.

Israel provides 70 percent of electric power to the Gaza Strip, about 10 percent of which comes from Egypt. The Gaza power plant provides the remaining 25 percent of electricity to the Strip.

While there is sufficient power to operate all essential services, Hamas uses the opportunity to protest border closures, imposed when Palestinians fire rockets and mortar shells on western Negev communities.

Kanan Obain, deputy director of the Palestinian Power Authority, announced Monday that they turned off a 25-megawatt turbine and would turn off two if they were not provided with fuel.

Meanwhile, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said that Hamas, which is smuggling fuel from Egypt, is perpetrating a hoax, which the media are buying.

"It is nonsense and it is a pity to fall into the trap of propaganda," Vilna'i told Army Radio.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Israel National News

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