JERUSALEM, June 13 (Xinhua) -- The power crisis in Gaza is "an internal Palestinian matter," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday in a first comment since Israel decided to reduce its electricity supply to Gaza.
The remark was made two days after Israel's security cabinet decided to cut down the power supply to the Hamas-run enclave by 40 percent following the Palestinian National Authority's announcement that it would pay only 60 percent of Gaza's monthly bill.
"The issue of electricity in Gaza is part of an argument between the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) and Hamas," Netanyahu said. "Hamas demands that the PNA pay for electricity and the PNA refuse to pay. This is an internal matter," he said.
Netanyahu stressed that "Israel has no interest in an escalation" of tensions with Gaza. "We want security, and our policy on this is clear and unwavering."
Since Gaza's sole power plant was put out of commission in mid-April after it ran out of fuel, Israel has become almost the only source of electricity to the Strip. The cabinet's decision is expected to 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.
The Ramallah-based unity government blames Hamas for not allowing it to operate in Gaza Strip, describing Hamas rule in Gaza as a "de facto government."
On Monday, Hamas slammed the move, warning of potential consequences. Hamas spokesman Abdulatif Al-Qanou said that the decision "is a further restriction of the Israeli siege on Gaza Strip and a new pressure that will lead to negative results."
He added that Hamas "warns Israeli occupation authorities against the continuation of its policy of sieging Gaza and the results it bears."
Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, warned 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.