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Israel agrees to PA request to reduce Gaza electricity

Gaza residents will live on four hours of electricity, as the Palestinian Authority and Hamas continue power struggle.

The Israeli government has agreed to cut down its electricity supply in the Gaza Strip, at the behest of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA)Israeli officials said.

According to Yoav Mordechai, the Israeli head of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), President Mahmoud Abbas requested Israel to stop supplying electricity to Gaza back in April.

The PA declined to comment.

Khalil Shaheen, a Ramallah-based political analyst, said the PA was applying heavy pressure on the Hamas government to relinquish its control over the Gaza Strip.

"The PA is trying to whip up public anger from Gaza residents towards Hamas by various means," Shaheen said.

"The decision to slash the salaries of PA employees in Gaza by 30 percent in addition to not paying for Israeli electricity is designed for Gaza to reach its breaking point, and for people to turn against Hamas," Shaheen said.

He also pointed out that these measures could be connected to Abbas' willingness to prove to the US and international community that the PA is with them in opposing Hamas.

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In comments made to local radio, Israeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said that the decision to limit the electricity supply to the Gaza Strip was to cripple the Hamas government.

A senior official in the Fatah-led government said last month that the aim behind the PA's move was to "dry up Hamas' financial resources".

Since 2006, the PA has been paying 40 million shekels ($12m) a month for electricity to be delivered from Israel to Gaza, which is deducted from tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA.

The daily amount of necessary electricity power usage is between 450 and 500 megawattsGaza's population of two million receives less than half of that.

Israel's power plant, which supplies 125 MGW, or 30 percent of the total electricity needs of the Gaza Strip, will scale back to at least 40 percent.

The enclave, which operates on a rotational system of six to eight hours of electricity followed by 12-hour blackouts, will now face a rationed two to four hours of electricity a day. 

Gaza's sole power plant, which used to provide 60 MGW, was forced to shut down in early April after it ran out of fuel. This came after the PA scrapped a tax exemption on diesel fuel, thus doubling the price.
Egypt's three electricity lines provide only 27 MGW per day but are rarely operational.

In a statement on Monday, Gaza's health ministry said that the medical sector is already struggling to provide diesel fuel to operate the 87 generators that supply electricity to hospitals during blackout hours.

Gaza is beset with humanitarian crises as a result of a decade-old Israeli and Egyptian blockade combined with the consequences of three Israeli wars.

In 2015, the UN released a report warning that the besieged enclave will become uninhabitable by 2020. More recently, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of "a systemic collapse of an already battered infrastructure and economy".

Hamas has been in control of the Gaza Strip since 2007, following an attempted coup by its main political rival Fatah after Hamas won general elections in 2006.

The two parties remain at odds with each other, despite several Arab-brokered reconciliation efforts.


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