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Israeli cuts majority of power supply to Jericho district

March 31, 2016 7:09 P.M. (Updated: April 3, 2016 8:38 P.M.)
(MaanImages/File)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) cut two-thirds of the power supply for the central West Bank district of Jericho on Thursday, the head of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) said.

Hisham al-Omari said that JDECO had not been officially informed of the “illegal procedure.”

IEC’s decision sets a “dangerous precedent,” al-Omari said, adding that it proved Israel’s plans to cut power supplies for other Palestinian cities being supplied by JDECO for unpaid debts amounting to more than 1.7 billion shekels (about $450 million).

The IEC told Haaretz that the power cuts in Jericho were a direct result of the fact that the district also receives electricity from Jordan.

Al-Omari called upon the Palestinian government and power authority to immediately intervene to stop the illegal procedure that could cause great damage and suffering to those living in the affected areas and called upon institutions and clients to pay their debts.

“Our first priority is to provide electricity services to Palestinian (individuals) and institutions, especially health utilities, hospitals, and emergency (services), and we aim to avoid any cut offs,” he added.

JDECO filed a lawsuit against IEC in June demanding the corporation pay some 500 million shekels worth of compensation for the financial losses and damages that JDECO had suffered, which were result of the expensive fines that the company paid to Israel for days of delay.

In May 2015, an initiative went into force to connect electricity grids in the occupied West Bank to Jordan as part of a greater move to interconnect power usage in the Arab world.

Expansion projects to the grid in the occupied West Bank comes as Palestinian dependence on Israeli electricity has been an ongoing point of contention between the two parties for years.

The contention arises partially due to massive debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to the IEC, which provides around 88 percent of total electricity consumption in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The effects of debts accumulated to IEC are seen beyond power cuts and growing indifference by residents to paying exorbitant bills.

"The outstanding payments owed to the Israeli Electric Company took a heavy toll on a struggling Palestinian fiscal situation," said Steen Lau Jorgensen, World Bank Director for West Bank and Gaza in an April 2015 report.

"The non-payment by Palestinian distribution companies and municipalities for purchased electricity has put further constraints on the Palestinian Authority's budget and has hindered economic stability," Jorgensen added.

The World Bank recommended in the report that the Palestinian Authority put more effort into reducing non-payment of electricity bills, while the Israeli Electricity Company should cooperate with its Palestinian counterparts in developing payment plans.
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