oPt: Humanitarian crisis in Gaza to worsen as closure extends - officials

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GAZA, Nov 15, 2008 (Xinhua via COMTEX News Network) - Palestinian officials on Saturday warned that the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip will deteriorate considering an immediate opening of Gaza crossing points Israel shut down was ruled out.

"There are no indications that the basic needs of the Gaza Strip would be allowed to enter in the coming few days," said Hatem Owaida, an official with Hamas ministry of economy.

Israel closed the commercial crossing points of the Gaza Strip on Nov. 4 following a surge of violence that left a shaky ceasefire with Palestinians militant groups near collapse.

Ten Hamas militants were killed since then and the Islamic Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip, responded by resuming rocket attacks against Israeli border towns, this time firing heavier rockets.

Israel was supposed to allow limited amounts of food and dairy products and 18 truckloads of aid from the United Nations refugee agency into Gaza, "but called off the decision in the last minute, " according to Owaida.

The crisis forced the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to halt delivering food aid to 750,000 Gaza residents, about half of the total Gaza population in the impoverished strip.

During the closure, reduced amounts of industrial diesel were trucked in to the sole power plant in Gaza which was shut down again on Thursday due to the lack of fuel, leaving more than a quarter of Gaza population into darkness.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Shawa, director of petrol stations owners ' union, warned that sewage treatment facilities, water networks and other service utilities are near to stop operations due to the lack of power.

"The Israelis close the crossings, though the situation should be more positive due to the lull," al-Shawa said, referring to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire which calls on Israel to ease Gaza blockade in exchange for calmness.