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Gaza Strip receives first fuel shipment in weeks as storm causes havoc across Middle East

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Sunday, December 15, 2013, 7:58 PM -

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 and saw temperatures dip below freezing, crippled the city of Jerusalem and leaving thousands without power in Israel and the neighbouring West Bank. 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described it as the worst storm in decades. It dumped up to 60 cm of snow on Jerusalem, a huge amount for a city that often goes entire winters without a snowstorm. Temperatures at this time of year are usually about 10 to 15 degrees C, and just two weeks ago had hovered around 20 degrees C.

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. 

The storm has come at a difficult time for Gaza. Recurring power outages have led to the suspension of many health care programs and services, including waste water treatment. Overwhelmed sewage facilities have been forced to dump untreated waste into the Mediterranean, and long lines are often formed outside bakeries while people wait to buy bread. 

Despite the blockade, Israel over the weekend sent diesel fuel for heating and four water pumps as a humanitarian gesture. 

With files from The Associated Press

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