By DIAA HADID
Associated Press Writer
¶ GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) _ Gaza City was dark Thursday evening after a day of violence and retribution, raising the grim prospect of an end to a truce that has stopped most Israeli-Palestinian violence in and around the seaside territory for five months.
¶ Gaza officials shut down their only power plant, cutting off electricity to much of the city of 300,000, after Israel canceled plans to ship in some diesel fuel for the plant as well as 30 trucks full of humanitarian supplies. The Israeli move came after Gaza militants fired at least eight rockets and some mortar shells at Israel on Thursday, according to the Israeli military.
¶ Rocket fire has resumed over the past week after an armed clash in Gaza, and Israel has clamped a tight blockade on the impoverished seaside territory.
¶ The truce, which ended months of rocket barrages that disrupted life in southern Israel and Israeli airstrikes and ground operations in response, is set to expire next month. Both sides have said they are interested in maintaining calm, but developments on the ground appear to be going in the other direction.
¶ Though no one was hurt in the rocket attacks on Israel Thursday, Israel scrapped plans to allow small amounts of fuel and supplies into Gaza. Kamal Obeid, a Hamas official at of the power plant, said fuel was running out and the facility would be shut down completely later Thursday.
¶ Israelis counter that the plant provides less than a quarter of Gaza's electricity, and most of the rest flows in unimpeded on power lines from Israel.
¶ The tight quarantine is causing serious problems, according to U.N. officials. Richard Miron, spokesman for the U.N. Mideast peace mission, called for restraint. "We renew our call for all sides to respect the calm," he said, charging that the blockade "hurts the people of Gaza and doesn't bring security to Israel."
¶ Without more supplies, the U.N. will be forced to suspend food distribution to 750,000 needy Gazans beginning Saturday, said John Ging, head of Gaza operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
¶ "The U.N. has been very clear that we should not hand the agenda over to those who fire rockets," Ging said. "They shouldn't dictate whether the crossings are open or not for the civilian population here."
¶ Israel also continued to block diplomats and journalists from entering the territory, including a group of some 20 European diplomats. The military said crossings were closed to all but humanitarian operations.
¶ Gaza hasn't been sealed so long since Egyptian mediators hammered out a truce between Israel and Gaza's ruling Islamic militant Hamas group in June.
¶ The truce began eroding last week when Israeli forces entered Gaza to try destroy what they said was a militants' tunnel. Eleven militants have been killed in more than a week of fighting, and more than 130 rockets and mortars have been fired from Gaza at Israel since.
¶ "The rockets are a natural response to (Israel's) aggression," said Fawzi Barhoum of Hamas.
¶ Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said Israel wants quiet. "The current round of violence is the sole responsibility of Hamas, who through their aggressive acts have endangered the lives of too many Israeli and Palestinian civilians," he said.
¶ Israeli warplanes flew low over Gaza on Thursday, setting off sonic booms.
¶ The Israeli military, meanwhile, delayed the replacement of its top Gaza commander because of the renewed violence, a military official said.
¶ Brig. Gen. Moshe Tamir was scheduled to be replaced Friday, but his term has been extended indefinitely, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because no formal announcement has been made.