AFP, Jerusalem Monday, 12 June 2017

Israel will reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip after funding cuts by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, a minister said Monday, worsening an already severe shortage in the Hamas-run enclave.

The security cabinet decided Sunday to reduce the daily amount supplied to Gaza by around 45 minutes, Israeli media reported.

Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt.

Residents who can afford it use generators to power their homes or businesses in the impoverished Palestinian enclave of some two million people.

Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan, also a cabinet member, told army radio the reduction was due to an ongoing row between Abbas and his rivals Hamas.

Abbas has reportedly decided to slash electricity payments for Gaza in a further bid to pressure Hamas.

But the reduction has also sparked fears of another upsurge in violence, with Israel and Hamas having fought three wars since 2008.

Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, when it seized it in a near civil war from Abbas’s Fatah following an electoral dispute over parliamentary polls won by the Islamist movement.

Abbas runs the Palestinian Authority, the internationally recognized Palestinian leadership based in the occupied West Bank.

Multiple attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah have failed, but the Palestinian Authority (PA) has continued to pay Israel for some electricity delivered to Gaza.

Abbas recently decided to “significantly reduce” payments for Gazan electricity, Erdan said.

“It would be illogical for Israel to pay part of the bill,” he said.
Israel and the PA cooperate in different areas despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organization and blockades Gaza.

Electricity supply is a major concern in the hot and cramped territory, which is currently marking the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

“It is not definite this will cause a military confrontation. It is possible that the Palestinians begin to understand the catastrophe that Hamas means for them,” Erdan said.

According to Israeli media, the PA decided to cut electricity payments for Gaza in April.

Hamas said then the “catastrophic decision” would have “dangerous” consequences.