Roughly a third of electricity to Gaza strip will be cut by Israel in a move to pressure Hamas, The Independent reported Tuesday, adding that it is unclear when the power will be shut down.
Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas' Fatah movement in 2007, and several attempts at reconciliation since then have failed. Human rights groups have raised concerns about the move, which is expected to severely impact the lives of some two million Palestinians living in the region.
Currently, Gaza suffers from chronic power shortages that disrupt important infrastructure, like household water supply, sewage treatment, hospital services and businesses.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the daily residential supply of electricity this year fell from 12 hours to four hours after Abbas cut the funding for power and fuel to run Gaza's only power plant. Families in Gaza have been holding Iftar, the meal to break their daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan, with candles in tow.
The new cuts will further slash the supply, limiting it to two to three hours in some places, and even 45 minutes in others. Clean water supplies are already beginning to dwindle as desalination plants are left without power, The Independent reported.
In a statement released by Hamas on Monday responding to Israel's decision, the group said that power cuts are “dangerous” and would lead to an “explosion.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum added that Israel and the Palestinian Authority, PA, "will bear responsibility for the grave deterioration" in Gaza's health and environmental crisis.
According to The Independent, the West Bank-based PA blamed Hamas' failure to reimburse it for electricity for the reduction in power supplies.
But spokesman Tareq Rashmawi explained PA's demand for Hamas to agree to unity initiatives proposed by Abbas, which include holding the first parliamentary and presidential elections in more than a decade.
"We renew the call to the Hamas movement and the de facto government there to hand over to us all responsibilities of government institutions in Gaza so that the government can provide its best services to our people in Gaza," said Rashmawi.
Israel's Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said, "We're not interested in an escalation vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip but we are interested in security and our policy hasn't changed."
“Providing electricity to the Gaza Strip is an internal Palestinian issue: Hamas wants the PA to pay for it and the PA refuses," Netanyahu said.