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PA cancels electricity debts for every West Bank resident

Jan. 2, 2013 9:01 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 11, 2013 11:10 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- The Palestinian Authority announced on Wednesday that it is cancelling outstanding electricity debts for each West Bank resident, on the heels of a deal that aims to help assuage the electricity companies' own arrears.

Government spokeswoman Nour Oudeh told Ma’an that all residential bills owed until Dec. 31, 2012 will be canceled. Businesses and people facing investigation for electricity theft will not be included in the deal.

The decision aims to open a new chapter of 100 percent enforcement of payment of electricity bills, she said.

On Sunday, PA premier Salam Fayyad signed a deal with popular committees in West Bank refugee camps ending refugees' exemption from electricity costs, but also canceling all their outstanding debt.

Palestinians in Nablus gathered on Tuesday to protest the exclusion of non-refugees from the debt amnesty, leading to violent clashes with Palestinian security forces.

Palestinian power companies said the gap in payments from refugees was a main reason for their accumulating debts. Other enforcement issues were all hampering bill collection, they said, calling for stronger penalties for debtors.

In the summer, Palestinian officials said Israel was threatening to cut off power over the unpaid debts, which total around $100 million after December's tax seizure by Israel, which was transferred to the Israeli electricity supplier.
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