Israeli company halts gasoline supplies to Palestinians, deepening crisis

Palestinian gas stations began shutting down and motorists lined up at pumps after an Israeli fuel company cut off deliveries Wednesday, deepening the humanitarian crisis in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that has followed Hamas' rise to power.

An end to fuel supplies could cripple hospitals, halt food deliveries and keep people home from work a devastating scenario for an economy already ravaged by Israeli and international sanctions.

Dor Energy, the Israeli company that is the sole fuel provider to the Palestinians, cited growing debts for its decision, Palestinian officials said.

Mujahid Salame, head of the Palestinian petrol authority, predicted fuel supplies would run out in many areas by Thursday. "If this happens, there will be a humanitarian crisis," he said.

Dor officials declined comment. The company has been the sole provider of gasoline to the Palestinian areas since interim peace agreements were signed in the mid-1990s.

In Gaza City, motorists formed long lines at filling stations in anticipation of a fuel crunch. Though station owners said they still had several days of reserves, some limited purchases to conserve supplies.

"I bought more than I need because I want to guarantee that I can reach work again," said Osama Shaban, 33, a construction engineer who drives 10 miles (16 kilometers) to work each day.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a top Health Ministry official in Gaza, warned that the area's hospitals, already suffering from a shortage of medicines, would cease to function without fuel.

He said ambulances would stop running, employees wouldn't be able to get to work and gas generators used to compensate for ongoing electric outages would be hobbled.

"It's going to be a disaster for us in the medical profession," he said, speaking at a Gaza City gas station where he helped fill the gas tanks of several ambulances, reports AP.


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