The Palestinian Authority notified Israel on Thursday that it will stop paying for the electricity Israel provides to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, effective immediately.
The PA told the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, that it will immediately stop paying for the electricity Israel provides the Gaza strip, Mordechai’s bureau said.
This is the first significant step taken by the Palestinian Authority as part of its change of policy toward the Hamas government in Gaza.
The coordinator’s bureau stated that Israel provides Gaza with electricity through ten transmission lines that carry 125 megawatts. This amounts to 30 percent of the power required by the Strip, at an estimated cost of 40 million shekels ($11 million) a month. Israel subtracts this amount from the taxes it collects for the Palestinian Authority.
A 24-hour electricity supply to Gaza requires the production of 400 megawatts.
In addition, the monthly cost of fuel purchased by the Authority for the operation of Gaza’s power station is estimated at 50 million shekels including taxes. Gaza has been experiencing severe power shortages for some time, with power restricted to only a few hours a day.
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The announcement by the Palestinian Authority means that in order to continue receiving power from Israel or purchasing fuel for the power station, international or private agencies will have to cover the costs.
The announcement, informing Israel about the cut in funding, is part of the serious internal confrontation between the Authority and Hamas over controlling the Gaza Strip. A halt to Israel’s supply of electricity due to the Authority’s decision could dramatically exacerbate the power crisis in Gaza, which is already dire.
On Tuesday the PA said it will soon announce steps to pressure Hamas into restoring some of the former's authority over the Gaza Strip. The measures are described as punishment of the Hamas government in Gaza for turning down Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiatives to restore PA control in the Strip.
According to the officials, the Palestinian Authority will slash the health care budget for Gaza, only paying salaries of medical personnel but not for the ongoing management of the health care system.