Gaza braces for ‘collapse’ after Israel approves reduction of electricity supply
BETHLEHEM (Ma‘an) 12 June — The Israeli security cabinet has approved a 40 percent reduction in Israel’s electricity supply to the besieged Gaza Strip, where Palestinians are already coping with a crippling power crisis and daily, hours-long blackouts, according to Israeli media reports. While Gaza’s electricity company said it had not received an official order regarding the impending power cut, it called upon Palestinians in Gaza to prepare for the worst, while human rights groups urged Israel to reconsider the move — expected to have immediate and disastrous effects on the medical sector in particular. The approval came after Israeli authorities announced plans to make the cuts last month, upon request of the Palestinian Authority (PA) in occupied West Bank, which foots Gaza’s monthly electricity bill from Israel, by subtracting from taxes collected by Israel on behalf of the PA. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had reportedly informed Israel that the PA only intended to pay 60 percent of the 40 million shekel ($11.19 million) monthly bill, as Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, and the Fatah-led PA continued to blame each other for a deepening crisis in Gaza. Meanwhile, the Gaza electricity company said on Monday that it had been informed by Egypt’s power company that it could cut off power lines feeding Gaza at any time, without providing further details.
Both Israel and the PA have accused Hamas of collecting millions of shekels in taxes from Gazans every month without transferring the money to the PA, and instead “using (the money) to dig tunnels and for the advantage of Hamas,” as the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) put it. Last week, the Palestinian Energy and Natural Resources Authority blamed Hamas for obstructing the PA’s plan with Israel to solve the electricity crisis by not transferring electricity payments to the PA, rejecting statements by Gaza’s power authority saying that it had met all of the PA’s stipulations to end the electricity crisis, but that the governing body in the occupied West Bank had yet to respond …
However, critics have said the PA has attempted to use the electricity crisis to exert pressure on the Hamas government to release control of the small Palestinian territory. Some two million Palestinians in the besieged coastal enclave have had to make do with just three to four hours of electricity a day since April, and according to Israeli outlet The Jerusalem Post, the new electricity cuts will keep the power on for just two to three hours a day….
Analysis: In choosing to cut power to Gaza, Israel bets on Abbas and hopes to avoid a war / Amos Harel
Haaretz 13 June — The inner cabinet’s decision on Sunday night to reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip appears contradictory. Its members were briefed by senior intelligence officers about the worsening humanitarian crisis in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, which will be greatly exacerbated by the Palestinian Authority’s decision to stop paying Israel for the power it sells to Gaza. But they nevertheless chose, with defense establishment support, to go along with the PA and cut the power supply, rather than trying to find an alternative funding source. Humanitarian organizations say the additional cut will reduce Gaza’s power supply to three hours a day or less, and Hamas warned of an impending war with Israel … The security cabinet had several reasons for its decision. First, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government can’t afford to be seen by its right-wing voters as capitulating to Palestinian threats and agreeing to finance Hamas’ activity. Second, it doesn’t want to be seen as siding with Hamas in the latter’s conflict with the PA. Third, most of Israel’s intelligence assessments argue that Hamas would be hard-pressed to start a war now, when it is more isolated than ever in the Arab world and now even fears the possibility of losing Qatar’s support. Fourth, the ministers still believe that Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, will once more save the day, rounding up outside funding for Gaza and restraining the PA in order to reduce pressure on Hamas and avert a military escalation. But all these reasons add up to a gamble: Israel is going along with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ aggressive new approach and hoping for the best….
Gazans being held hostage by Israeli, PA gamesmanship
+972mag 12 June by Orly Noy — The Israeli cabinet decided to accept Mahmoud Abbas’ request that the electricity supply to Gaza be cut. The army has warned against doing so, but it seems that for Israel, Abbas’ interests are more important than people’s lives — …Since mid-April, Gaza’s sole power station has been out of commission, after a deal by Turkey and Qatar to supply the it with fuel came to an end. The situation has created an energy crisis in the Strip — and the consequences are dire. Hospitals, for example, have ceased providing necessary treatments and are relying exclusively on ramshackle generators. This means that water purification systems aren’t functioning, while untreated sewage finds its way to the sea in enormous quantities. Water filters cannot be used, and it is nearly impossible to rely on pumps to clear the sewage from the neighborhoods. All these create real life-threatening situations. The humanitarian disaster we keep hearing about has already taken its toll on Gaza. Even the Israeli army understands this.
Under these circumstances, it is even possible to imagine the repercussions of additional drastic cuts in the electricity supply to Gaza at the height of summer? Gisha emphasizes that Gaza’s energy ministry has no way to ration out resources to, say, hospitals at the expense of other places. In other words, the cuts will certainly have an impact on everything and everyone in the Strip. In an urgent letter sent to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Sunday, Gisha said that “cutting electricity is a red line that must not be crossed. This option must be taken out of consideration, and Israel must strive to make sure the infrastructure in the Gaza Strip meets the needs of its residents.”
So what is actually going on here? Does Israel not understand the significance of the ongoing catastrophe in Gaza? Or perhaps it understands but does not care? Or maybe it understands it well, and has no qualms about it? On the one hand Education Minister Naftali Bennett said on Monday that “we must learn lessons from Gaza 2014. The humanitarian situation there is worsening. We must work to prevent another round of fighting,” just hours after he sat at a cabinet meeting, where it was decided to cut electricity to Gaza, thus rendering another round of fighting inevitable. On the other hand, Intelligence Affairs Minister said on Monday that “Israel has no policy for Gaza, only decisions.” It is possible that Israel has no clear policy vis-a-vis Gaza, but it seems that when it comes to Abbas, there is certainly no lack of policy. As long as he is suppressing the political rivals of the man who is often called “the subcontractor of the occupation,” Israel is happy to help….
Hamas denies it built tunnel under UN schools in Gaza
AFP 10 June — Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas has denied that it or any other militant group built a tunnel under two UN schools in Gaza after its discovery drew a strong UN protest. Over the years, Gaza’s Hamas rulers have built a labyrinth of tunnels, some passing under the border into Israel which they used to launch attacks during their last conflict in 2014. On June 1, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) found “part of a tunnel that passes under two adjacent agency schools in the Maghazi camp” during construction work, spokesman Christopher Gunness said on Friday. Hamas late Friday “strongly condemned” the UNRWA statement, saying it would be exploited by Israel to “justify its crimes”. Hamas had clarified the issue “with all factions and resistance forces, who clearly stated they had no actions related to the resistance in the said location,” the movement s aid, adding that it respected UNRWA’s work. Gunness said that the tunnel “has no entry or exit points on the premises nor is it connected to the schools or other buildings in any way”. “UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way,” he said. Gunness said the agency had “robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza”. He said UNRWA will seal the tunnel, which was discovered while the schools were empty during the summer holiday….
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