Abbas seeks Hamas-Israel conflict over Gaza energy crisis, Israeli minister says

“Israel’s defence minister on Thursday accused president Mahmoud Abbas of trying to spark a new round of confrontations between Hamas and Israel, after a raft of punitive measures targeting Gaza.

Israel’s defence minister on Thursday accused Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas of trying to spark a new round of confrontations between Hamas and Israel, after a raft of punitive measures targeting the Gaza Strip.

Israel this week reduced electricity supplies to Gaza after the Palestinian Authority refused to foot the bill for energy to the besieged coastal enclave. The cuts will reduce the mains power flow to Gaza to as little as two hours a day.

Previously, the PA paid $12.65 million per month for Israeli-supplied electricity which provided up to one quarter of the territory’s needs.

“Abu Mazen didn’t make a one-time cut,” Lieberman told the annual Herzilya security conference near Tel Aviv, referring to Abbas by his nickname.

“His intention is actually to continue cuts and in a few months to stop paying for fuel, medicines, salaries and many other things.”

“In my opinion the strategy is to hurt Hamas and also to drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel,” he said.

Internal divisions between Hamas and Fatah have for years impacted the supply of energy to Gaza, but the recent crisis has seen a marked escalation.

Days after Israel cut electricity supplies, Egypt delivered fuel to Gaza for the territory’s sole power plant in a bid to alleviate the shortages

The plant had ceased operating in April after Hamas officials said they could no longer afford new PA-imposed taxes, with the deliveries previously subsidised.

On Wednesday, eight shipments had entered with a further 14 expected later in the day, Wael Abu Omar, the Rafah crossing spokesman, told AFP. 

A million litres of Egyptian fuel was expected to enter on Thursday, he added.

Hot weather and the holy month of Ramadan have increased demand for electricity, adding to the shortages.

Abbas-Dahlan rivalry

The Egyptian import deal was agreed at talks in Cairo this month between Gaza’s new hard-line Prime Minister Yehya Al-Sinwar and Egyptian security officials.

Sources close to the negotiations said the deal was also facilitated by Mohammad Dahlan, a Fatah rival of Abbas currently exiled in Abu Dhabi after being expelled from the party.

According to Palestinian sources, Abbas has pressured the company which owns Gaza’s power station to not to use the Egyptian-delivered fuel, Haaretz reported. 

The plant is privately owned and contracted by the PA.

The Gaza-based National Movement for Breaking the Siege said this week that fuel delivered by Egypt must be used immediately, and the power station would be responsible, together with “whoever gave the order not to the use the Egyptian fuel,” for the consequences.

Gaza is home to two million people, with 75 percent of the population dependent on humanitarian aid.

The UN has stated that Gaza will be “uninhabitable” by 2020 as a result of Israel’s decade-long blockade and three military offensives in eight years.

Charlie Hoyle

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