* Gaza power crisis part of PA-Hamas power struggle
* Western-backed PA seeks to loosen Hamas control in Gaza
* Wants new elections while ramping up economic pressure
* Gazans largely dependent on Israeli electricity
* Local power plant ran out of fuel weeks ago
* Gazans have electricity for only 4-6 hours a day
* Further power cut-off would lead to longer blackouts
By Jeffrey Heller
JERUSALEM, April 27 The Palestinian Authority
told Israel on Thursday it will no longer pay for the
electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, Israeli officials said, a
move that could lead to a complete power shutdown in the
territory whose two million people already endure blackouts for
much of the day.
The decision was another sign of a hardening of Palestinian
Authority policy towards its Hamas rivals, who control the
The Western-backed Authority and Hamas are locked in a
struggle over a unity deal that could loosen the Islamist
group's hold on the Gaza Strip, territory it won control of from
forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in 2007.
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, called the move "a grave
escalation and an act of madness".
Israeli authorities deal with the PA on electrical and fuel
supplies for Gaza because Israel does not engage with Hamas,
which it regards as a terrorist organisation.
The PA has already taken several steps, such as taxing
Israeli fuel it purchases for Gaza's sole power plant -- which
has been unable to come up with the funds and stopped operating
two weeks ago -- to pressure Hamas into new Palestinian
Regaining a measure of control over Gaza could empower Abbas
politically as Israel and the Palestinians await a widely
expected push by U.S. President Donald Trump for a revival of
peace efforts that stalled in 2014.
"The Palestinian Authority has informed it will immediately
stop paying for the electricity that Israel supplies to Gaza
through 10 power lines that carry 125 megawatts, or some 30
percent of Gaza's electrical needs," said a statement from
COGAT, Israel's military liaison agency with the PA.
With the generating plant off-line and Egyptian supplies via
power lines notoriously spotty, Israeli electricity has been
vital, keeping power on for Gazans, although for only four to
six hours a day.
Spokesmen for the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian
Energy Authority declined comment.
Israel charges the PA 40 million shekels ($11 million) a
month for the electricity, deducting the sum from the transfers
of Palestinian tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of
Israeli sources said Gaza needs 400 megawatts of power to
ensure full 24-hour supply to its residents.
That goal is not being met even when the power plant is
operational. It usually produces 60 megawatts, added to the 125
megawatts supplied by Israel and 25 megawatts that come across
power lines from Egypt.
($1 = 3.6419 shekels)
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal
al-Mughrabi in Gaza; Editing by Angus MacSwan)