Syria to Close Govt Agencies for 2 Days amid Fuel Crisis

This file photo released on April 7, 2019, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a worker filling a pickup at a gas station, in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
This file photo released on April 7, 2019, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a worker filling a pickup at a gas station, in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
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Syria to Close Govt Agencies for 2 Days amid Fuel Crisis

This file photo released on April 7, 2019, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a worker filling a pickup at a gas station, in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)
This file photo released on April 7, 2019, by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows a worker filling a pickup at a gas station, in Homs, Syria. (SANA via AP, File)

Syria's government will close state agencies for two days in December due to severe fuel shortages caused by a disruption in the arrival of supplies and Western sanctions, state media reported Tuesday. 

The decision to close the institutions on Dec. 11 and Dec. 18 comes at a time when many employees have been unable to make it to work because public transportation has been badly affected by the crisis. 

Fuel shortages have paralyzed government-held parts of Syria over the past few weeks in one of the worst crises since the Syrian conflict began 11 years ago. The crisis has hit almost every sector as fuel is needed for power generators that supply factories, telecommunications networks and other institutions with electricity amid widespread power cuts. 

The fuel crisis was one of the reasons behind riots in the southern Druze-majority Sweida province Sunday that left a protester and a police officer dead and seven others wounded. 

The crisis comes during the winter season when many people rely on diesel for heating. On Monday, the Ministry of Internal Trade almost doubled fuel prices to reach 5,400 pounds (93 cents) for a liter of diesel while gasoline reached 4,900 pounds (84 cents). 

The price of subsidized fuel did not change and each vehicle has the right to 25 liters every 10 days but recently they have been getting the amount every 20 days instead. 

A taxi driver in Damascus, who identified himself as Abu Ali, said he only works three days a week because of the shortages, adding that the government is not giving out enough subsidized fuel and he cannot afford to buy from the black market, which is double the price. 

“I'd rather rest,” he said, than work at a loss. 

Iran, a main backer of President Bashar Assad since the conflict began, decided last month to increase oil supplies to Syria by 1 million barrels a month to reach 3 million barrels a month to help the Arab country through its fuel crisis, according to the pro-government Al-Watan daily. 

Before the conflict began, Syria produced some 380,000 barrels of oil a day, of which 250,000 barrels were used domestically and the rest were exported. Now, production has dropped sharply as Syria’s largest oil fields in the country’s east are controlled by US-backed Kurdish-led fighters. 

Syria’s oil ministry says government-controlled areas now produce about 80,000 barrels a day. 

Syria’s Oil Minister Bassam Toamah told state TV last week that the fuel shortages are the result of Western sanctions and a 50-day delay in supplies. That's an apparent reference to oil-rich Iran, which has been the main source of fuel since the sanctions were imposed during the early years of the conflict that has killed hundreds of thousands. 

Iran-flagged tanker Lana made it to Syria last week, months after it was seized near Greece with the assistance of the United States in an attempt to seize oil due to American sanctions imposed on Tehran. Iran retaliated by seizing two Greek oil tankers in May and released them last month. 

Although the Iranian tanker, carrying hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil, delivered the oil it is not enough to ease the crisis. 

“Life has become completely paralyzed especially because of the diesel shortage,” said Samir Asfour, who owns a cement brick factory in the Damascus suburb of Adra. He said heavy machinery and trucks rely on diesel. “This could stop the whole construction business.” 



Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
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Israel Pounds Central Gaza Camps, Deepens Invasion of Rafah

A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS
A view of a damaged building, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, at the Rafah Crossing, Gaza, in this screengrab obtained from a social media video released on June 19, 2024. Doron Kadosh, Glz/via REUTERS

Israeli forces pounded areas in the central Gaza Strip overnight, killing three people and wounding dozens of others, according to medics, while tanks deepened their invasion into Rafah in the south, residents said.
Israeli planes struck a house in Al-Nuseirat camp, killing two people and wounding 12 others, while tanks shelled areas in Al-Maghazi and Al-Bureij camps, wounding many other people, health officials said, according to Reuters. Nuseirat, Maghazi, and Bureij are three of Gaza's eight historic refugee camps.
In Deir al-Balah, a city packed with displaced people in the central Gaza Strip, an Israeli airstrike killed one Palestinian and wounded several others on Thursday, medics said.
The Israeli military said on Wednesday forces were continuing their operations across the enclave targeting militants and military infrastructure in what it described as "precise, intelligence-based" activities.
More than eight months into the war in Gaza, Israel's advance is now focused on the two last areas its forces had yet to storm: Rafah on Gaza's southern edge and the area surrounding Deir al-Balah in the center. The operations have forced more than a million people to flee since May, the vast majority already displaced from other parts of the enclave.
In Rafah, near the border with Egypt, Israeli tanks stationed deep in the western and central areas of the city stepped up bombardment, forcing more families living in the far coastal areas to flee northward. Some residents said the pace of the raid has been accelerated in the past two days.
"The tanks took control of most of the areas in Rafah. People living by the beach have also started to leave toward Khan Younis and central areas in fear because of the continued bombardment," said Abu Wasim, a resident from Rafah's Al-Shaboura neighborhood, who quit his home over a week ago before tanks rolled in reaching the heart of the city.
Rafah housed over half of Gaza's 2.3 million people until May 7 when Israeli forces began the ground offensive into the city. Fewer than 100,000 are now believed to be left behind.
There has been no sign of let-up in the fighting as efforts by international mediators, backed by the United States, have failed to persuade Israel and Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.
The armed wings of Hamas and Islamic Jihad said fighters battled Israeli forces with anti-tank rockets and mortar bombs, and have in some areas detonated pre-planted explosive devices against army units.
On Thursday, Israeli authorities freed 33 Palestinians who had been detained during the past months by Israeli forces in different areas of the enclave. The freed detainees were admitted into Al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir Al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip after they complained of torture and mistreatment by Israeli jailers.