GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Gaza Strip received its first shipment of industrial fuel in 45 days on Sunday, bringing much-needed relief to the coastal territory after a winter storm dumped rare snow across the region.
The storm, which began late Wednesday with temperatures dipping below freezing, crippled the city of Jerusalem and left thousands without power in Israel and the neighboring West Bank.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as the worst storm in decades. It dumped up to 2 feet of snow on Jerusalem, a huge amount for a city that often goes entire winters without a snowstorm.
Gaza, located on the Mediterranean coast, experienced its first snowfall in some 20 years, but most of the damage was caused by flooding.
A lack of fuel has hampered rescue efforts in Gaza, where an estimated 40,000 residents fled flooded homes. The storm let up Sunday, but authorities in the region still struggled to clear roads and repair downed power lines.
Gaza has suffered from chronic fuel shortages since the Hamas militant group seized power in 2007, prompting Israel and Egypt to impose a blockade on the territory. But the situation has worsened since a coup in neighboring Egypt last July. The country’s new military rulers have tightened the blockade and destroyed a network of smuggling tunnels that were used to ship cheap fuel into the territory.
Sunday’s Israeli fuel shipment was paid for by Qatar, an oil rich Gulf country that has aided Hamas in the past. Officials said Gazans would now have roughly 12 hours of electricity a day, up from the recent level of six hours.