JERUSALEM, (Reuters) – Israel’s biggest commercial bank said on Tuesday it was severing its business ties with Palestinian banks in the Gaza Strip in response to the Israeli government’s classification of the territory as an enemy entity.
A Palestinian banking official said Bank Hapoalim’s
A Hapoalim spokeswoman said it would take several weeks for the bank to cease completely its services to Gaza’s financial institutions.
Israel declared the Gaza Strip an “enemy entity” last Wednesday and said it would reduce its fuel and power supplies to the territory in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants. It has yet to carry out any cuts and pledged to keep humanitarian aid flowing.
Hamas, an Islamist group that opposes Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s peace moves with Israel, violently took over the Gaza Strip in June.
By formally defining Gaza as enemy territory, Israel could argue that it cannot be bound by international law to supply utilities and services to its 1.5 million people.
U.N. officials have challenged that contention. Israel withdrew troops and settlers in 2005 from the Gaza Strip but Palestinians say it is still occupied because Israel controls its air, land and sea borders.