Mazuz Prohibits Punitive Power Cuts in Gaza Strip

Attorney General Menachem Mazuz yesterday prohibited the state from cutting off electricity to parts of the Gaza Strip, as the defense minister has threatened to do.

After holding a debate in his office yesterday, Mazuz ordered the defense establishment to reexamine the issue.

The decision followed a petition submitted by 10 human rights organizations, asking the High Court of Justice not to allow punitive measures against the Gaza Strip's population. The petitioners argued that the decision to cut off vital power supplies was illegal and was likely to harm the innocent civilian population in the embattled coastal strip.

The court instructed the state to answer the petition by Friday, but refrained from banning the power cut.

At the end of the debate, Mazuz ruled that Israel had a right to sever economic and commercial ties with Gaza, which Israel declared a "hostile territory" last month, and therefore approved the implementation of punitive measures pending the cabinet's approval.

However, in regard to cutting off electricity, Mazuz said that more research must be done before such a measure can be implemented without causing a humanitarian crisis, as the prime minister promised not to do last week.

Everyone agreed that Israel was responsible for the population in the Gaza Strip and that measures must be taken to minimize the harm caused to it.

The hearing was attended by senior Justice Ministry officials, officials from the High Court of Justice, the Military Advocate General and the legal teams of the Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office.

They all agreed that Israel was responsible for the humanitarian condition of the Gaza Strip's population and must do whatever it could to restrict the harm to this population.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Palestinian militants in Gaza Strip on Monday to stop missile attacks against Israel, but he also asked the Israelis not to take punitive measures that would hurt the civilian population.