Fears of blackout after Palestinian Authority cuts Gaza's electricity
The Fatah-led Palestinian Authority said on Thursday that it would no longer pay Israel for electricity it supplies to the Gaza Strip, raising fears of a complete power shutdown in the besieged territory.
The move, announced in a statement by Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), is thought to be a power play by President Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas authorities in Gaza.
The decision will cut power supplies which provide around 30 percent of Gaza's electricity needs.
Hamas immediately slammed the move, with spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri labelling it a "grave escalation" and an "act of madness," according to Reuters.
Another senior Hamas official, Ismail Radwan, warned that anyone who "collaborated with the occupation" would regret it.
"We will not pay a political price for this crime," he added.
The move is the latest in a series of punitive measures taken by the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority towards Gaza.
Earlier in April, a decision by the PA to impose pay cuts on its civil servants in Gaza sparked widespread anger.
Tens of thousands took to the streets in Gaza to protest the 30 percent pay cut, with demonstrators calling on Abbas to sack his government.
Furthermore, the sole power plant in Gaza shut down two weeks ago due to a lack of fuel. The PA supplies Israeli fuel to Gaza but recently raised import taxes, which Hamas says makes it unaffordable.
In protest at the tax hike, Hamas authorities cut off power in Gaza for one evening, leaving residents in darkness.
The punitive moves by the PA are thought to be a way to pressure Hamas into holding reconciliation talks and, eventually, elections.
The West Bank and Gaza have been run by separate Palestinian administrations since 2007, following a brief, but deadly, civil war between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 but was immediately blacklisted by the United States, the European Union, and other Western powers. Sanctions were imposed and foreign aid suspended.
In subsequent fighting, Hamas ousted Fatah from Gaza, with the group saying it pre-empted a US-backed Fatah coup.
For the past decade, Gaza has been under a suffocating Israeli-Egyptian blockade, severely damaging the enclave's economy.
In 2015, the United Nations warned that Gaza could become uninhabitable by 2020 if current political and economic trends caused by Israeli policies continue.