For three weeks now, the gas cylinder seller has not called out -- as is his custom -- from the street on which housewife Hala Yunis lives in the Gaza Strip.
The no-show has forced the 42-year-old mother of five to scrap her modern cooking machine and resort to old-fashioned cooking implements, including coal-fuelled mud ovens and primus stoves.
But as winter looms, Yunis fears that the ongoing shortage of gas canisters will translate into a lack of heat in the cold weather.
"I'm afraid the crisis will continue through winter," Yunis told the Anadolu Agency. "Demand for gas always peaks during winter."
Gas cylinder sellers and distributors, meanwhile, remain idle, reflecting the grave fuel shortage across the Gaza Strip due to repeated Israeli closures of the Karam Abu Salem crossing, a commercial crossing on the strip's southeast linking it to the Jewish state.
Repeated border closures in September coincided with Jewish religious holidays.
Gas seller Samir al-Telmis says the frequent closures have squeezed the embattled Palestinian territory dry of butane.
The availability of gas cylinders in the strip, he added, was closely linked to the amounts of butane gas being allowed by Israel through Karam Abu Salem.
"There has been a severe drop in the amounts of butane gas [allowed through the crossing] due to the Jewish festivities," al-Telmis, 37, said.
Adding to the strip's woes, the Egyptian army is waging an all-out campaign against a network of smuggling tunnels linking Gaza to Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, which until now has represented a lifeline -- albeit an illegal one -- for the besieged coastal enclave.
The ongoing crackdown has effectively halted the flow of essential goods into the strip, including foodstuff, medicine, fuel and construction materials.
Al-Telmis said Gaza's drivers had been relying on butane gas to power their vehicles since Egypt began destroying the Sinai-Gaza smuggling tunnels.
Local drivers appear to have found in butane a cheap alternative to smuggled Egyptian fuel (diesel and gasoline) and much more expensive Israeli petroleum products, currently on sale at many of the strip's petrol stations.
Abu Raafat al-Said, a Gaza resident in his sixties, expressed deep concern over Egypt's crackdown on the tunnels, which has served to put Gazans at the mercy of bitter enemy Israel.
"It leaves us only with the Karam Abu Salem crossing," al-Said said. "The crossing is usually closed for weeks on 'security' pretexts by [Israeli] occupation forces."
Concerns over a persistent butane gas crisis -- especially with winter around the corner -- have compelled Abdel-Nasser Mehana, head of Gaza's General Petroleum Authority, to step up efforts to bring more natural gas into the strip via Karam Abu Salem.
"So far, we have not managed to bring additional amounts of natural gas into Gaza," Mehana told the AA.
He said the Gaza government was holding talks with all stakeholders -- including the Palestinian Authority-led government in Ramallah, Tel Aviv and the Palestinian private sector -- with a view to securing additional amounts of gas for the beleaguered strip and its hapless inhabitants.
Although the Gaza Strip requires between 205 and 300 tons of gas daily, it currently receives only 120 tons each day, according to Mehana.
Israel has recently allowed limited amounts of construction material into the strip for the first time since the embargo was put in place six years ago.
Israel maintains Karam Abu Salem as its only operational crossing with Gaza, having closed down its four other crossings after Hamas took over governance of the strip in 2007.
The crossing, however, has been repeatedly closed this month due to ongoing Jewish religious holidays. The crossing is normally closed on Fridays and Saturdays.
"Repeated closures of the crossing have served to intensify the suffering of the almost 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza, particularly with Egypt's current crackdown on the tunnels," Tarek Labad, head of communications at Gaza's Information Ministry, said.
He went on to note that the crossing had been shut 12 times in September alone due to the Jewish holidays -- not to mention the fact that the crossing itself was in dire need of upgrade to allow it to accommodate stepped up imports.
Last Mod: 30 Eylül 2013, 17:04