Netanyahu: No interest in escalation over Gaza power spat

Netanyahu: No interest in escalation over Gaza power spat

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

Qatar hosts the Hamas leadership and funds reconstruction projects in the Gaza Strip (ABC News 05/06/2017, Al Monitor 09/06/2017, Times of Israel 06/06/2017).

The decision is expected to shorten the daily average of four hours of power Gaza's two million residents receive by 45 minutes, Israel's security cabinet said.

Mladenov's warning comes amid a spat over electricity supply between Hamas, the Islamist movement that has controlled the Gaza Strip for ten years, and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority that controls the West Bank.

That has put Israel in the tough spot of having to choose between siding with Hamas in the internal Palestinian struggle or risking a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished coastal strip.

The Haaretz newspaper reports that Israel's Cabinet made a decision to cut back supplies but this could not be immediately confirmed.

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, asked Israel to act as part of an effort on his part to isolate the Islamists of Hamas. "On the one hand, it first attacks innocent civilians and then hides behind children", Netanyahu said.

Moreover, Qatar's Foreign Minister Mohammed bin-Abdulrahman al-Thani pointed out that Hamas itself has always been considered a "legitimate resistance group" across the Arab world.

UNRWA's Gunness said the agency had "robustly intervened and protested to Hamas in Gaza".

Israel and the PA cooperate in different areas despite the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but Israel views Hamas as a terrorist organisation and has imposed a blockade on Gaza. It urged Israel "in its capacity as an occupying power according to the global humanitarian law, to fulfill [its] obligations towards the Gaza Strip population and guarantee civilians' access to the necessary basic services".

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had reportedly informed Israel that the PA only meant to pay 60 percent of the 40 million shekel ($11.19) 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.

Hamas built tunnels under Gaza into Israel and Egypt to be used to smuggle food and water, and to be used to kidnap Israeli soldiers into Gaza.

The war also caused several billions of dollars in damage to Gaza's economy.

His criticism echoed those of Israel's Defense Minister, Avigdor Liberman, who said on Monday: "It can not be that Hamas collects taxes from the residents of Gaza, and these taxes go to tunnels, to rockets, not to the development of Gaza, to the development of the electricity sector, to the water sector, and now it has to decide what it wants".

Hamas took over the Gaza Strip ten years ago.

Hamas denied the accusations, calling them "Israeli fabrications". After the Arab-Israel war of 1948-1949 and the formation of the Jewish state of Israel, Gaza came under Egyptian administration, but was never annexed.

Hamas spokesman Abdul-Latif Qanou described the decision as "dangerous and disastrous" and threatened that it would "lead to an accelerated deterioration and a blow-up of the situation in Gaza".

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