GAZA CITY: A Hamas MP said Tuesday that a natural gas field might have been discovered off the Gaza shore, prompting hopes for alternative fuel supplies for the blockaded Palestinian territory.
Salem Salama, who heads an economic committee, told AFP "preliminary tests carried out by experts from the Islamic University suggest that there is a natural gas field near the coast" of the Gaza Strip.
He said the tests were carried by Hamas coastguards in the last few weeks after fishermen noticed large bubbles emanating from the water some 300 metres (yards) offshore.
But the Hamas deputy prime minister Ziad al-Zaza was more cautious telling AFP "we need to conduct further studies to confirm that there is any gas."
"This requires probing by specialist companies because we don't have the adequate laboratories and experts here," given the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which is ruled by the Islamist Hamas movement, he said.
Gaza has to import all its fuel, and is going through the worst energy crisis in its history, with residents facing daily power cuts of up to 12 hours.
The territory has been under an Israeli blockade since 2006, when Gaza militants snatched an Israeli soldier who was released in a prisoner swap deal in 2011.
A closure by the Egyptian army last summer of tunnels running under the Gaza-Egypt border cut crucial supply lines for fuel, building materials and other goods to Gaza.