Israel decreased the amount of electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip on Monday, meaning residents of the coastal enclave will now receive three and a quarter hours of electricity per day.
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Gaza’s electricity company said the Israel Electric Corporation supplied eight megawatts below the 120 megawatt amount it has been supplying recently, meaning Gazans will now receive 45 minutes less electricity than the average four hours they were receiving.
The move follows a decision by the Palestinian Authority to reduce its payments to Israel for Gaza residents’ electricity usage by 30 percent.
Talks to find a solution to the electricity crisis continue, including with several European and Gulf countries that have offered to pay the electricity costs.
Palestinian sources noted that the outcome of the talks is also dependent on Hamas’ position and its relationship with those countries.
In addition to reducing its payments toward the Gaza Strip’s power bill, the PA has also stopped transferring funds to Gaza’s health system. According to the nonproft Physicians for Human Rights, some 240 children and hundreds of cancer and cystic fibrosis patients are not receiving treatments as a result of the cuts.
Israeli nongovernmental organization Gisha, which campaigns for Palestinians’ freedom of movement, wrote to Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman two weeks ago, stressing that the electricity shortage in the Gaza Strip had already resulted in the shuttering of desalination plants that are vital to meeting the Strip’s drinking-water needs, the closure of hospital departments, and that sewage was flowing in the streets.
“In light of the harsh reality,” the letter stated, “professional bodies are already warning of a humanitarian disaster” in Gaza.
A spokesman for Gaza's electric authority told journalists in the Strip following the Israel Electric Corporation's announcement that the two supply lines reduced by Israel serve Gaza City and the area of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, meaning these two zones are due to feel the full effects immediately.
"Eight megawatts sounds like little but this is electric power that could run hospitals in Gaza City, so we're talking aobut a very dangerous reduction and if it worsens it will lead to disaster in all respects," he said.
A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, warned against what he called the destructive consequences of the decision and said that the PA, particularly President Mahmoud Abbas, and Israel are responsible for the crisis. "This behavior will only hasten the next explosion," he said.