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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

Hamas leader says won’t stop Gaza marches for ‘diesel fuel and dollars’

Eight killed in Gaza and the West Bank in bloody weekend across the occupied territories

Black smoke from burning tyres hangs in the sky as Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards troops during a protest at Gaza's border with Israel. AP
Black smoke from burning tyres hangs in the sky as Palestinian protesters hurl stones towards troops during a protest at Gaza's border with Israel. AP

“Diesel fuel and dollars” will not end the Gaza border protests, the leader of Hamas said after Israel cut fuel and gas deliveries to the coastal enclave on Saturday.

Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of the group that fought three wars with Israel since 2008, said the rallies would continue until “the siege on Jerusalem, Al Aqsa and all the lands of Palestine is lifted”.

Israeli gunfire killed at least 200 Palestinians since the marches began on March 30. Israeli snipers have also maimed hundreds by aiming at their lower limbs in a bid to incapacitate them, according to rights groups. Israel says it is trying to prevent incursions into its territory.

Speaking at funerals for seven Gazans killed in Friday’s protests, Mr Haniyeh said: “The strength of will and the determination of our people in the March of Return will lead to victory over the crimes of the occupation.” At least 150 Palestinians were also wounded by Israeli fire on Friday.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said no fuel would enter Gaza while the protests continued.

“Until violence in the Gaza Strip stops entirely, including the launching of incendiary balloons and the burning of tyres near Israeli communities, the supply of fuel and gas to the Gaza Strip will not be renewed,” he said.

Israel vets everything that enters and leaves Gaza through its land crossing. It maintains a naval blockade on Gaza’s coast and forbids aviation there. Egypt also has a land crossing with Gaza with severe restrictions.

A deal brokered by the United Nations and backed by the United States, Israel and others, sent thousands of litres of fuel into Gaza every day to boost its electricity supply. Residents only have up to four hours of power a day at present.

At least six trucks entered Gaza since Tuesday, bringing more than 200,000 litres of diesel. There were plans for these deliveries to be increased to 15 trucks a day.

But Israel curtailed the deliveries only days after they began.

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The fuel deal was reached without the agreement of the officially recognised Palestinian government, in what diplomats said was a first for Gaza – which is controlled by the rival Palestinian faction, Hamas.

It also raised questions on whether Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is slowly being sidelined.

Abbas's Palestinian Authority (PA) has semi-autonomy in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, but lost control of Gaza to Hamas in 2007.

But the PA has long been the only partner for most international powers. A senior official declared on Thursday that the PA would no longer work with the UN envoy who brokered the deal, Nikolay Mladenov.

Great efforts were made to convince Mr Abbas to agree to the fuel deal, with a decision ultimately made to work around him.

The PA was accused of doing little to ease the suffering of Gazans over the past decade and Abbas has even taken punitive measures against the territory to squeeze Hamas.

Elsewhere in the Palestinian territories, an Arab woman died when her car was pelted with rocks. Aisha Al Rawbi, 47, died near the West Bank city of Nablus from a head injury when a rock shattered the glass of her car. Ms Al Rawbi’s husband said Jewish settlers were to blame.

Aykube Al Rawbi, 52, said he was driving by a settlement late on Friday after dark and that he could not see who pelted the car.

"The stones came from the side where the settlement is. I could hear the people speak Hebrew, but I didn't see them," he said.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said: "Police arrived in the area and have opened an investigation." An Israeli court issued a gagging order on details of the inquiry.