Daily Israel Report

Egypt Cracking Down on Hamas' Black Market Fuel

Egyptian security forces in northern Sinai are seizing black market fuel shipments headed for Gaza after deal to sell fuel to PA
By Gabe Kahn
First Publish: 5/14/2012, 8:08 PM

Smuggling tunnel
Smuggling tunnel
Flash 90

Egyptian security forces seized four vehicles transporting unlicensed fuel in the northern Sinai over the weekend.

Security officials said the vehicles were carrying 1,640 liters of fuel in 82 tanks for sale on the black market. A driver was detained for investigation, they added.

Last week, security forces confiscated a truck in the Sinai carrying 10 thousand liters of fuel headed to tunnels under the border with Gaza Strip.

Egypt moved in February to shut down fuel deliveries to Gaza via the tunnel smuggling network developed by Hamas - sparking a fuel shortage that caused widespread blackouts.

Hamas had long been using the tunnels - used to bring arms and other goods into Gaza - as a means of raising customs revenues on all goods entering the strip.

While fuel is allowed into Gaza via Israel's Kerem Shalom crossing, Hamas eschewed such transfers as "prohibitively expensive" despite Israel selling fuel to the enclave at at market rates.

Observers note that tax-revenues from goods that pass through the Kerem Shalom crossing are paid to the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah rather than Hamas.

A recent deal between Cairo and Ramallah to build a fuel pipeline into Gaza and upgrade the coastal enclave’s sole power plant has also infuriated Hamas.

Under the agreement, tariffs generated by the deal will be paid to the Fatah-run PA in Ramallah rather than the Hamas administration in Gaza.

In mid-February, when the Gaza power plant went dark for several weeks, UN officials pointed to Egypt as the reason.

According to the UN agency for humanitarian affairs (OCHA), the amount of fuel entering Gaza through the tunnels from Egypt has dropped by half over the last fortnight.

"Only half of the amount of fuel that entered in the previous weeks has been coming into Gaza for the past two weeks," OCHA said in its weekly report.

"Unconfirmed reports indicate that the reason for this sharp decline is an increase in fuel prices triggered by movement restrictions imposed by the Egyptian police on fuel cargoes travelling to Rafah," OCHA officials added.

While Hamas has tried to blame Israel for the crisis, local residents have placed the blame squarely on the terror group’s shoulders. Hamas issued arrest warrants for several local activists who openly blamed them for the crisis.

Hamas seized Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in a bloody 2007 putsch that left them responsible for governance – and led to a series of cash-flow crises for the terror group.

Several senior Hamas leaders have expressed distress over the responsibilities of rule, saying “politics are bad for the revolution” and suggesting the terror group get out of governing altogether.