Israel’s security cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to agree to a request from the Palestinian Authority chairman to reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip.
The request from PA President Mahmoud Abbas is part of escalating tensions between his Fatah faction and Hamas, which runs Gaza. Hamas continues to encourage efforts by its operatives in the West Bank to carry out terrorist attacks against Israelis and has invested significant resources rebuilding its underground tunnel network and replenishing its missile arsenal. It has done this using electricity paid for by the PA and supplied by Israel.
While the PA has been paying over $11 million every month to supply Gaza with 125 megawatts of electricity, it recently announced that it could only pay about $7 million a month.
During the security cabinet debate, a military official explained that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is very grave, adding to rising tensions. Maj-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, did however recommend that Israel should grant the PA’s request.
Israel has approved both a new high-voltage power line to Gaza to operate desalination plants for clean water, as well as a natural gas pipeline for electricity, but this will take several years to implement.
Over the weekend, the Okaz Saudi newspaper wrote that “what Hamas is doing is a double betrayal of the Palestinian issue, since it invested US$120m in the last three years on intensive construction of tunnels.”
The newspaper also said it was worse than ISIS saying that “ISIS commits murder directly, whereas Hamas commits murder slowly.”
The paper notes that “Hamas under Iranian direction has allocated millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia and the emirates to the support of terrorism.” It said that there is no difference between crimes committed in Mosul by ISIS and those committed in Gaza by Hamas, as “Hamas uses the Palestinians in Gaza as human shield.”
The comments come as Saudi Arabia is leading a charge against Iran and those it sponsors. By contrast, the foreign minister of Qatar said: “Hamas is a legitimate resistance movement.”
Furthermore, Osama Hamdan, the Hamas spokesman for international relations, announced that Hamas’s political bureau director, Ismail Haniyeh, will soon visit Iran at the head of a delegation of senior Hamas officials. A delegation led by Yahya Sinwar that is currently in Cairo will soon arrive in the Gaza Strip. Haniyeh will then head the delegation to Iran shortly after.
Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told visiting U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley on Friday that Saleh al-Arouri, a senior Hamas commander who was recently deported from Qatar, has moved to Lebanon and intends to launch terror attacks against Israel from there.