Israel has blocked the supply of fuel and gas to the besieged Gaza Strip, saying it was in retaliation over Palestinians setting fire to Israeli land, local media reported.
Minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman ordered the halt in fuel shipments via the partially sealed off Karem Abu Salem commercial border crossing. The decision, which came into effect on Thursday, will continue until further notice.
Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Gaza, said at least 19 fires were reported by Israel on Wednesday.
The move was to place “pressure on the leadership here to stop the incendiary kites and balloons,” Dekker said, referring to Hamas – the group that governs the Gaza Strip.
On July 9, Israel shut down the sole commercial crossing to the besieged Palestinian territory, cutting the supply of essential commodities to the nearly two million residents.
The move only allowed for the transfer of humanitarian needs such as cooking gas as well as wheat and flour into Gaza, an official responsible for coordinating the movement of cargo through the border confirmed to Al The closure also affected Gaza’s exports, further straining an already crippled economy brought to its knees by the 12-year blockade.
Some 40 to 50 trucks transporting local goods used to leave the strip on daily basis, the official at the border in Gaza had said.
The coastal enclave suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time.
In recent weeks, Palestinians in Gaza have been protesting against the naval, aerial and land blockade imposed by Israel and neighbouring Egypt since 2006.
Some have used flaming objects attached to kites to set fire to agricultural land just over the fence. The incendiary kites and balloons sent from Gaza above the Israeli fence east of the strip have reportedly caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Israel had been using drones to intercept the kites, but Palestinians have had some success in bringing the drones down.
In previous retaliatory measures, Israel struck targets belonging to Hamas, blaming the group for the launching of the kites. The air raids have killed at least three Palestinian civilians in the past month alone.
Since March 30, Palestinians in Gaza have also been protesting for their right to return to the homes from which they were expelled in 1948.
At least 153 people have been killed by Israeli gunfire during the popular demonstrations – dubbed the Great March of Return – that have been taking place along the fence with Israel.
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