A fuel shortage forced the Gaza Strip’s main power station to shut down on Monday, leaving about half the residents of the territory without electricity, a power plant official said.
About 800,000 of the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents lost power when the plant was shut down, the official said.
Israel decided not to allow fuel into the Gaza Strip despite warnings that the territory’s sole power plant was on the verge of running dry.
"After consultations with security officials and in view of the continued rocket fire, Defense Minister Ehud Barak has decided to maintain the closure of the border crossings and not to authorize the delivery of fuel," a ministry statement said.
"The issue of the reopening of the border crossings and the delivery of fuel supplies will be the subject of further consultations by the defense minister in the evening," the statement added.
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip hit southern Israel on Monday without causing any casualties or damage, army spokeswomen said. Palestinian rocket firing resumed after Israel attacked the strip, killing and wounding several Palestinians, a few days earlier.
Palestinian officials in Gaza said on Sunday that power supplies had been reduced by one third in the absence of fuel and that electricity would be completely cut off in the coastal territory by Monday evening.
But Israel insisted that Gaza was still getting enough electricity from the Israeli and Egyptian grids to provide 75 percent of its needs and accused the Hamas movement which controls the territory of exploiting the situation for political ends.
"The cynical Hamas exploitation of the civilian population in Gaza is contemptible," a foreign ministry statement said.
"There is sufficient electricity in the Gaza Strip to operate hospitals and other essential facilities. Hamas, as usual, is orchestrating a media show."
The European Commission, which funds the fuel deliveries to Gaza’s sole power plant, said it had been informed by Israel that they might resume on Tuesday. The EU’s last shipment was made on Nov 4. An EU official said the power plant was running very low on fuel. The facility uses a special type of industrial fuel, not regular diesel.
"The Israel liaison office with the Palestinian territories told us that the deliveries to the power station could resume tomorrow," the EU official said.
Under an Egyptian-brokered truce, Israel agreed to open the vital crossings with Gaza, through which badly needed food and fuel are transported and the Islamists vowed to halt rocket attacks.
Israel imposed a punishing blockade on the impoverished territory after Hamas seized power, ousting forces loyal to president Mahmud Abbas.