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Rights groups warn of looming disaster if Israel cuts power supplies to Gaza

The prospect of lengthier blackouts has raised fears of an upsurge in violence [AFP]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2017

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International NGOS joined the UN on Wednesday in warning of a "total collapse" in Gaza if Israel goes ahead with plans to further cut power supplies to the enclave.
International rights groups joined the UN on Wednesday in warning of a "total collapse" in Gaza if Israel moves forward with plans to further cut power supplies to the Palestinian territory.

Sixteen rights group, including Israel's B'Tselem, Peace Now and Rabbis for Human Rights, said in a joint statement they have asked Israel's attorney general to take action.

Gaza currently survives on only three to four hours of mains electricity a day, delivered from the enclave's own power stations as well as others in Israel and Egypt.

On Sunday, Israeli ministers agreed to cut down the amount of electricity supplies to Gaza by about 45 to 60 minutes a day.

"A group of civil society organisations... sent an urgent letter today to attorney general Avichai Mandelblit demanding that he advise the members of the security cabinet to immediately rescind (its) decision to reduce the supply of electricity sold and provided by Israel to the Gaza Strip," the NGOs, including Amnesty International, said in their statement.

They said further cuts would contravene a 2008 Israeli supreme court ruling that years of Israeli control over the strip had created near-total dependence on power supply from the Jewish state, and it must therefore continue to provide sufficient electricity to meet humanitarian needs. 

Amnesty warned in a separate statement of a "looming humanitarian catastrophe".

It said additional reductions in power "will have a disastrous impact on Gaza's battered infrastructure and cause a public health disaster."

"The move will also endanger thousands of lives including those of hospital patients with chronic conditions or in intensive care, including babies on life support."

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied territories, Robert Piper, warned that fresh cuts would be disastrous.

"A further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors," Piper said in a statement.

"The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had cut funding for power supplies to Gaza by his West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, in attempt to step up pressure on his rivals the Islamist movement Hamas.

Hamas has run Gaza since 2007, when it seized the territory from Abbas loyalists in a dispute over parliamentary elections swept by the Islamist movement the previous year.

Multiple attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah movement have failed, but his Palestinian Authority has continued to pay Israel for some electricity delivered to Gaza.

Hamas said the cut was made on Abbas' orders and termed it "a catastrophe". 

"This decision aggravates the situation and risks an explosion in the Gaza Strip," the group said on Monday.

The prospect of even lengthier blackouts in Gaza has raised fears of a new upsurge in violence.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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