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Hamas Thinks It Found Offshore Gas Field

MP in Hamas government claims gas field found off Gaza coast, deputy prime minister not so sure.
By Ari Yashar
First Publish: 2/25/2014, 10:54 PM

Israeli Tamar gas rig
Israeli Tamar gas rig
Flash 90

An MP in the terror organization Hamas's Gaza government reported Tuesday that a natural gas field has potentially been found off the Gaza coast.

Salem Salama, chair of Hamas's economic committee, said "preliminary tests carried out by experts from the Islamic University suggest that there is a natural gas field near the coast," reports AFP.

In recent weeks the test were conducted by Hamas after fishermen reported large bubbles in the water roughly 300 meters (just under 1,000 feet) off the coast, reported Salama.

However, Hamas Deputy Prime Minister Ziad al-Zaza painted a more skeptical picture, noting "we need to conduct further studies to confirm that there is any gas. This requires probing by specialist companies because we don't have the adequate laboratories and experts here."

The issue of energy resources is of particular concern in Gaza, as an Egyptian siege ended the smuggling of illegal fuel into the Hamas enclave, and last November set off an energy crisis with daily power cuts of up to 12 hours.

Israel for its part has enforced a blockade on Gaza since 2006 according to international law, given that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization. Nevertheless, Israel has allowed fuel into Gaza through the border crossing, and reportedly agreed to increase its supply of electricity to Gaza in January by an extra 100 megawatts.

Hamas was bailed out after the November energy crisis by fuel bought from Israel by the Palestinian Authority (PA), on funds supplied by Qatar. The Hamas 2014 budget features a $589 million deficit.

In late January, PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas signed a $1 billion natural gas project for Gaza while in Russia. The Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS reported that Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom intends to produce 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas off the Gaza coast.

Meanwhile Hamas-run Gaza has rapidly been casting off the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire by firing numerous rockets at Israel, leading defense officials to asses the ceasefire as dead.