Abbas’ Palestinian gov’t accuses Israel of Geneva Conventions ‘crimes’ after the Israel Electric Company inevitably reduced the power supply to parts of the West Bank, due to the Palestinian Authority’s mounting unpaid electric bill of $470M.
The Palestinian Authority has accused Israel of imposing “collective punishment” on the Palestinians because of the Israeli electric company’s decision to reduce power supply to parts of the West Bank due to debts.
The PA said its representatives have contacted several international parties to complain about the decision to cut off power supply to Palestinian communities in the West Bank.
A PA official warned that the Israeli move would have a negative impact on many Palestinians, as well as the health, education and economic sectors.
The PA is also planning to take punitive measures against Palestinians who haven’t paid their bills to the Arab Jerusalem District Electricity Company and those involved in electricity theft, the official said.
The Israel Electric Company (IEC) began cutting off the electricity to some parts of the West Bank in order to pressure the PA to pay its NIS 1.7 billion electric bill.
Two weeks ago, the IEC informed the Prime Minister, the Finance and Energy Ministers, the Electricity Authority and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) that, due to the debt of the eastern Jerusalem Electric Corporation, it intends to implement the cut-off procedure.
The head of the Palestinian Energy And Natural Resources Authority (PENRA), Thafer Milhem, denounced the Israeli decision as “blackmail” of the PA government.
“This unfair decision aims at forcing the Palestinian government to sign a costly agreement that also bans us from operating in Area C [of the West Bank],” Milhem said.
The decision, he added, comes in the context of the Israeli “collective punishment against our people. The power supply will be cut off for two hours to some villages in the Ramallah and Bethlehem areas as of Sunday,” he said.
Milhem said that the PA Finance Ministry paid off part of the debt to the IEC in the past two months.
In his office on Sunday, Milhem met with the Hisham Omari – chairman of the east Jerusalem-based Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDEC) – to discuss repercussions of the Israeli move.
The JDEC said that the failure of many Palestinians to pay their electrical bills to the company was the main reason why it was unable to pay its debts to Israel. A senior JDEC official said that widespread theft of electricity in Palestinian villages, refugee camps and cities was also contributing to the company’s financial crisis.
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