Netanyahu: Gaza Power Crisis 'Internal Matter', Israel Not Interested in Escalation

Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas for the severe power shortages in the Gaza Strip

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem Sunday, June 11, 2017.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs a weekly cabinet meeting at his office in Jerusalem Sunday, June 11, 2017. Ariel Schalit/AP

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu commented on the current electricity crisis in Gaza on Tuesday, saying it was an "internal Palestinian matter" and that Israel is not interested in an escalation with Hamas.

"The issue of electricity in Gaza is part of an argument between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. Hamas demands that the PA pay for electricity and the PA refuse to pay. This is an internal matter.

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"In any case, I want to stress that Israel has no interest in an escalation [of tensions] and anyone saying otherwise is mistaken. We want security, and our policy on this is clear and unwavering."

On Monday, the Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas for the severe power shortages in the Gaza Strip, after the group warned Israel that further reducing electricity to the coastal enclave would spark an "explosion."

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A few weeks ago, Abbas informed Israel that he would cut the amount of money he transfers to Israel to provide electricity in Gaza by 40 percent. Abbas made the decision as part of his attempt to put heavy pressure on Hamas. Israel responded that the supply would be cut according to the payments received. On Sunday, the security cabinet approved reducing power to the Strip, in a move that is expected to worsen the already difficult humanitarian situation in Gaza.

In a statement, the Palestinian Authority said that as Hamas was in control of Gaza and of tax collecting there, it bears responsibility for the crisis. The PA noted that it pays Israel 25 million shekels every month to pay for electricity for Gaza.

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Earlier on Monday, Hamas and the Gaza electric company warned against reducing power to the Strip, with the militant group calling Israel's decision "disastrous." Cutting power pushes the Strip even closer to explosion, Hamas said in its first response to the Israeli decision. 

The Gaza Electricity Authority also warned that reducing the power supply to the Strip any further would probably lead to disaster. 

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The authority’s spokesman, Mohammed Thabat, said Monday that electricity lines from Israel are now the only source of steady electricity to the Strip, given the many disruptions in the supply from Egypt and the fact that the Gaza power plant is operating at very reduced capacity.

Thabat said that Gaza residents now have electricity between three to four hours a day and it’s hard to assess what their situation would be after any further cuts. Hamas called Israel’s decision to accede to Abbas’ desire to pressure Gaza "a disaster" that is exacerbating an explosive situation.