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Monday, March 05, 2012

Hamas continues to pressure Egypt for fuel

A Hamas spokesman said that there were Arab countries like Algeria willing to provide fuel for Gaza, but that Egypt was holding up the process.

Yousef Rizqa, political adviser to Ismail Haniyeh, said "There are Arab countries including Algeria willing to supply fuel to Gaza, but you need permission from Cairo to pass the fuel through its territory."

He said that there were two sticking points with Egypt.

One is that Egypt wants to supply fuel via the Kerem Shalom crossing, which is controlled by Israel and this has a "political risk" where Israel could turn the fuel off at any time (even though they never have except when crossings are directly attacked.)

He added that Gaza wants to have an independent crossing for trade with Egypt and the Arab States and "the introduction of oil through the Karm Abu Salem eliminates this." In other words, Gaza can get fuel today but Hamas' real aim is to pressure Egypt to build a new Rafah crossing for goods and fuel, and they are willing to sacrifice their own people's needs in the medium term to force Cairo to do what they want. Apparently they are gambling that the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt will not publicly tell them to drop dead and popular pressure will force Egypt to do what they are demanding.

The second point that hinders the supply of fuel to Gaza is Cairo's request of charging one dollar per liter of fuel. After taxes this would mean that the cost for Gazans would be 6 shekels a liter ($1.58) which would be "a hardship and crisis for the citizens of Gaza, especially that the sector is going through a state of unemployment and economic weakness."

He said, "we wanted a lower price, but the Egyptian government said it imports petroleum and can not reduce the price."

Of course, Hamas could reduce the tax and help out their citizens, but protecting their own profit is a big part of creating this artificial crisis.

Meanwhile, in black markets in Gaza, people are paying as much as 17 shekels (over $4) per liter for gas.

Israelis pay $2.20 per liter of gasoline. Egypt's subsidized gasoline costs Egyptians about 50 cents a liter, which is what Hamas has been relying on smuggling in for the past year.

The cynicism of Hamas in creating and using this crisis to advance their own agenda is breathtaking, but so far very few people are publicly blaming them for treating their citizens like dirt. Egypt doesn't want to make waves and the PA is officially still trying to "unify" with Hamas so they are keeping pretty quiet.