Gaza power plant restart delayed over fuel: officials

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Gaza's sole power station will not resume operations until Monday, despite Israel reopening a crossing to fuel deliveries, the deputy chief of the Gaza energy authority said on Sunday.

Officials had said Israel would allow the resumption of diesel deliveries into Gaza on Sunday, a day after the Palestinian territory's power plant stopped working because of a lack of fuel.

"The central power station will resume operations at 06:00 am (0400 GMT)" on Monday, Fathi al-Sheikh Khalil told AFP.

"We were expecting the delivery today (Sunday) of 500,000 litres of fuel, but the delivery has been delayed, and only 100,000 litres have been delivered," he said.

"We should receive 500,000 litres tomorrow."

A Palestinian official, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, said: "Problems in transferring funds between the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah and the Hamas government in Gaza are to blame" for the delay.

A spokesman for COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry unit responsible for crossings into Gaza, confirmed that 100,000 litres of fuel were delivered on Sunday via the Kerem Shalom crossing for the power station.

COGAT had earlier confirmed that the fuel deliveries were to resume on Sunday.

On Thursday, the defence ministry shut down the Kerem Shalom crossing into southern Gaza after militants there fired scores of rockets over the border, although no one was injured.

Israel hit back with air strikes, which also caused no injuries, and officials ordered the closure of the terminal, halting all deliveries.

"Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon... instructed to open the Kerem Shalom crossing for the transition of gas into the Gaza Strip," COGAT said earlier on Sunday.

"The amount coordinated for today... is 500,000 litres of diesel and gasoline for the private sector, 160,000 tonnes of cooking gas, and 200,000 litres of diesel for the operation of the power plant in Gaza," it said.

The power plant, which supplies some 30 percent of Gaza's electricity needs, fell silent for 50 days in the latter part of 2013 because of lack of fuel but resumed operations in late December.

Israel routinely closes the crossing in response to rocket fire or other violence in and around Gaza.

The fuel is bought from Israel by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority which also facilitates the delivery because the territory's Islamist Hamas rulers do not recognise Israel and do not have any direct dealings with its officials.