Israel to reduce power to Gaza, heeding PNA request

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-12 18:35:15|Editor: An
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JERUSALEM, June 12 (Xinhua) -- Israel has decided to accept the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and cut the electricity it supplies the Hamas-run Gaza by 40 percent, Army Radio reported on Monday.

The decision was made on late Sunday night, after the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) said it would pay only 60 percent of Gaza's monthly bill.

The move came as the PNA was stepping up its pressure on its political rival, Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement that controls the besieged Palestinian enclave.

According to figures published by the Times of Israel, the PNA has been paying Israel 40 million shekels (about 11.3 million U.S. dollars) a month. However, the PNA recently said it was now only prepared to pay 7 million dollars a month for electricity to Gaza.

The cutting will likely further reduce the hours of power supply in Gaza from six hours a day to four or two hours a day, according to Israeli media reports.

Since Gaza's sole power plant was put out of commission in mid-April due to a financial dispute between the PNA and Hamas, Israel has become the only source of electricity to the Strip.

During the discussion at the security cabinet, military officials warned that any further cutting might "destabilize" the Strip, according to a report in Israel's Ha'aretz newspaper. However, they welcomed the cutting as a mean to pressure Hamas, Ha'aretz reported.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, said in a statement sent to Xinhua that the current situation in Gaza is already grave, and the new cutting poses "serious risks" to the two million residents of Gaza.

"Reducing the electricity supply will have devastating consequences and greatly exacerbate the situation, which is calamitous and unstable," the group said.

According to Gisha, due to power deficit, some 100 million liters of mostly untreated sewage have been already pumped into the Mediterranean Sea.

In hospitals, entire wings are shut down during blackouts, and people who rely on life-saving equipment are at risk.

Israel seized the Gaza Strip, together with the West Bank, in the 1967 Middle East war. In 2005, Israel withdrew its forces and settlers and announced it "disengaged" from Gaza.

In 2007, after Hamas took control over the Strip, Israel and Egypt have imposed a blockade on the territory.