Officials in Gaza warn that the dire gas shortage in the blockaded coastal strip could bring closer to reality a humanitarian crisis as a cold winter nears.
Mahmoud al-Khaznadar, vice president of the gas station owners union in the Gaza Strip, said Wednesday a weekly average of 100 tons of fuel has been allowed into the blockaded strip while the minimum need is 300 tons.
The temperature has fallen to five degrees Celsius as the cold season looms to affect thousands of Gazans whose homes do not traditionally have central heating, while thousands of others live in shelters after they saw their houses reduce to debris during Israel’s 22-day war against Gaza in 2008.
A recent spell of heavy rains has aggravated the conditions for those in tents and make-shift homes where, Al-Khazandar said, families have recently had to wait almost a month to refill the gas canisters they use for their gas-burning stoves and water heaters.
"Most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip comes from Egypt and is smuggled through the tunnels," admitted the union leader who warned that the fuel does not undergo safety tests.
The official was referring to a network of cross-border tunnels used by Palestinians to push in basic needs into the impoverished area, which has been under an Israeli siege since 2007.
The only Gaza border terminal which is not controlled by Tel Aviv is the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt, which Cairo refuses to open.
Egypt has recently started construction of a deep-running steel wall to further disrupt the tunnels which are regularly flooded with gas or water by Egyptian forces and frequently pounded by Israeli jets.
The UN Humanitarian Coordinator and Association of International Development Agencies on Wednesday warned against the impact of the Gaza siege on the health of its 1.5 million inhabitants.
"More than 750,000 children live in Gaza. The humanitarian community is gravely concerned about the future of this generation whose health needs is not being met. The decline in infant mortality, which has occurred steadily over recent decades, has stalled in the last few years," said Max Gaylard, the resident humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.