Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan announced on Monday that Tel Aviv will reduce electrical power to Gaza, deepening an energy crisis in the Hamas-controlled coastal strip.
The decision will worsen the living conditions of about 2 million people living in the Strip that has been under a ten-year Israeli siege.
Gaza has witnessed three destructive wars between Israel and the Palestinian factions since Hamas took control of the enclave in 2007.
Israeli media said that the government decided on Sunday to reduce reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip after funding cuts by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a minister said Monday.
The security cabinet decided Sunday to reduce the daily amount supplied to Gaza by around 45 minutes. Gazans currently receive only three or four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt.
Erdan told army radio the reduction was due to an ongoing row between Abbas and his rivals Hamas.
Abbas has reportedly decided to slash electricity payments for Gaza in a further bid to pressure Hamas.
The West Bank-based Palestinian Authority blamed Hamas’s failure to reimburse it for electricity for the reduction in power supplies.
But PA spokesman Tareq Rashmawi coupled that explanation with a demand that Hamas agree to Abbas’s unity initiatives, which include holding the first parliamentary and presidential elections in more than a decade.
“We renew the call to the Hamas movement and the de facto government there to hand over to us all responsibilities of government institutions in Gaza so that the government can provide its best services to our people in Gaza,” he said.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel and the PA “will bear responsibility for the grave deterioration” in Gaza’s health and environmental situation.
Electricity supply is a major concern in the hot and cramped territory, which is currently marking the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.
“It is not definite this will cause a military confrontation. It is possible that the Palestinians begin to understand the catastrophe that Hamas means for them,” Erdan said.
According to Israeli media, the PA decided to cut electricity payments for Gaza in April.
Hamas said then the “catastrophic decision” would have “dangerous” consequences.
Residents who can afford it use generators to power their homes or businesses in the impoverished Palestinian enclave of some two million people.