Netanyahu: No interest in escalation over Gaza power spat

Gaza City tunnel

Egypt has handed a list of security demands to the leader of the Palestinian group of Hamas Yehia Al-Sinwar in exchange for providing electricity to Gaza Strip, Palestinian Sources told Asharq Al-Awsat. The cabinet's decision is expected to reduce the hours of power supply in Gaza from six hours a day to four or two hours a day, according to Israeli media reports.

Hamas on Monday had warned the spiraling crisis could result in war. Israel in the past has deducted the money owed for Gaza electricity from PA (Palestinian Authority) tax funds before handing them over but PA Chairman Abu Mazen has announced he is no longer going to flip the entire bill for Hamas' electricity.

The request from PA President Mahmoud Abbas is part of escalating tensions between his Fatah faction and Hamas, which runs Gaza. After the Arab-Israel war of 1948-1949 and the formation of the Jewish state of Israel, Gaza came under Egyptian administration, but was never annexed. With only a few hours of mains electricity per day, hospitals are forced to rely on generators for power, the fuel for which is now carefully rationed and in danger of running out entirely.

Gazans already suffer from chronic power shortages which affect businesses, household water supply, sewage treatment and hospital services. Medical equipment is rapidly degrading due to constant fluctuations in electrical current.

Egypt has offered to provide the Gaza Strip with more electricity in return for cooperation in counter-terrorism measures Cairo is undertaking. "The lives of patients in intensive care, including approximately 100 babies, will be immediately endangered should supplies dwindle further". "Hamas is demanding that the PA (Palestinian Authority) pay for the electricity, and the Palestinian Authority is refusing to pay".

Ostensibly, in light of Hamas' troubles, a decision to seek a military escalation with Israel would be utterly foolish for Hamas, said Harel.

A month ago, Mordechai warned global aid organizations operating in the Gaza Strip that they had to prepare for the possibility that Israel would gradually cut of the power supply to the territory.

The Haaretz newspaper reports that Israel's Cabinet chose to cut back supplies but this could not be immediately confirmed.

For decades, Israeli officials have claimed that without UNRWA providing for the needs of the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Israel would be held responsible.

But the decision, reached on Sunday by Israel's security cabinet, is stoking concern that it could trigger a humanitarian crisis among Gaza's 2 million people and a new round of fighting between Hamas and Israel. Though Israeli politicians have argued for changing policy toward UNRWA, Netanyahu appears to have finally done so.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with the Fatah party. Hamas has accused Abbas of trying to turn the screw on them to make political concessions.

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