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Gaza planning demonstrations as Israel further cuts power supply

June 20, 2017 10:43 A.M. (Updated: June 20, 2017 9:32 P.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Residents of the besieged Gaza Strip were planning demonstrations on Tuesday to denounce Israel’s recent reduction of power supply to the blockaded coastal enclave.

Israel started to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza on Monday at the request of the occupied West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA), despite being urged by humanitarian organizations not to implement the decision.

As a result, Gazans who had previously had electricity access for four hours a day saw their supply reduced by eight megawatts, providing only two to three hours of electricity on Monday, as the Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) announced on Monday that it would further reduce the output of Israeli grids providing power to Gaza over coming days. Israeli NGO Gisha said that Monday's cuts reduced electricity supply by 6.7 percent.

On Tuesday, Gaza Electricity Distribution Corporation spokesman Muhammad Thabet told Ma'an that IEC reduced the power supply by 12 additional megawatts.

Tuesday's reduction affected two grids -- one known as the Sea Line which feeds the northern Gaza Strip, and one known as the Dome Line which feeds Gaza City -- with each line's output reduced by six megawatts.

The demonstrations are scheduled to take place at around 4:30 p.m. following afternoon prayers, along the borderline between Gaza and Israel, near Gaza City, al-Bureij refugee camp, and Rafah, spokesman for Gaza's national movement against the siege Mahmoud al-Ayla told Ma’an.

Al-Ayla accused Israel of imposing "collective punishment on Gaza residents."

Israel announced the decision to cut supplies last week, after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the PA would no longer pay the full amount of the monthly electricity bill, as both Israel and the PA have accused Hamas of collecting millions of shekels in taxes from Gazans every month without transferring the money to the PA.

Gaza, which marked its 10th year under Israeli blockade last week, has struggled for years with power shortages due to limited fuel access and degraded infrastructure.

A group of 16 civil society organizations urged the Israeli attorney general on Wednesday to reconsider limiting electricity output to Gaza, slamming the decision as “unrelated to concrete security needs” and “political in nature,” therefore in violation of international law.

No response was ever received, Gisha said in a statement Monday after the initial cuts were made to the electricity supply. "To make matters worse, Israel continues to severely limit entrance of generators and spare parts needed for their repair to Gaza, as well as entrance of transformers and equipment needed to repair an electricity network nearing collapse."

"Despite the warnings, the Security Cabinet’s disastrous decision was partially implemented today," the group said at the time, before the announcement of further cuts were made. "Once again we must caution: by reducing electricity supply to Gaza, Israel is knowingly aggravating an already dangerous situation in which the Strip is teetering on the verge of a humanitarian crisis -- and with implications for Israeli citizens as well."

"The consequences of a reduction in supply are likely to be devastating," Gisha wrote, and described the already dire situation in Gaza: "water desalination and sewage treatment facilities are not operational; some 100 million liters of untreated or partially treated sewage are being dumped mostly at sea daily; generators are over-extended; entire hospital wards are shut down during blackouts, and people who rely on life-saving equipment are at risk. All of this is expected to get even worse."

"Israel must immediately cancel reductions to electricity supply to Gaza and work instead to increase supply." the rights group said.

While UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the occupied Palestinian territory Robert Piper characterized the ever-worsening crisis in Gaza as “an internal Palestinian dispute” on Wednesday, rights groups have placed the bulk of the blame on the Israeli siege.

Israeli NGO B’Tselem blamed the blockade for putting Gaza “in the throes of a humanitarian disaster,” adding that Israel was “consigning (Gaza’s) residents to living in abject poverty under practically inhuman conditions unparalleled in the modern world.”
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