US ‘concerned’ about Gaza crisis but says Hamas responsible
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US ‘concerned’ about Gaza crisis but says Hamas responsible

State Department underscores need of 'international support' for Strip's recovery and humanitarian assistance to Palestinians

Palestinians walk on a dark street during a power outage in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, June 11, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)
Palestinians walk on a dark street during a power outage in the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City, June 11, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The administration of US President Donald Trump said it was “concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza,” but placed the blame for the unfolding crisis on the Hamas terror group that rules the Palestinian enclave.

In a State Department news briefing on Tuesday, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration was “aware that the Israeli cabinet approved the PA, the Palestinian Authority’s, request to reduce electricity in Gaza. Beyond that, I’m not going to weigh in, but we do remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation right there.”

She said however that “no one should lose sight of the fact, of this fact, that Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current situation in Gaza.”

“We continue to underscore the need for international support for Gaza’s recovery and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people,” she added.

US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks to reporters during a press conference in Washington, DC on June 8, 2017 (screen capture)
US State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert speaks to reporters during a press conference in Washington, DC on June 8, 2017 (screen capture)

The Israeli security cabinet decided Sunday night it would cut the daily amount of power it supplies to the Gaza Strip by between 45 and 60 minutes at the behest of Abbas, who is seeking to ramp up pressure on Hamas, his Fatah party’s bitter rival.

Gazans currently receive only three to four hours of electricity a day, delivered from the territory’s own power station and others in Israel and Egypt.

Israel too has expressed concern but attributed the crisis to an internal Palestinian power play. Jerusalem was said to be in talks with Egypt and with European countries in an effort to solve the matter.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tuesday that “Israel has no interest in an escalation” of the situation in Gaza, adding that it was related to an “internal Palestinian dispute,” and that the PA was refusing to pay for electricity.

The prospect of even lengthier blackouts in Gaza has raised fears of a new upsurge in violence with Hamas warning that it may lead to renewed conflict. Israel and Hamas have fought three wars since 2008.

Fighters from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas terror movement, attend a memorial service for a commander killed in an apparently accidental explosion inn the southern Gaza Strip on June 10, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)
Fighters from the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas terror movement, attend a memorial service for a commander killed in an apparently accidental explosion inn the southern Gaza Strip on June 10, 2017. (AFP/SAID KHATIB)

The United Nations said Wednesday that Gazans were being held hostage to Palestinian political infighting, warning that longer blackouts triggered by Abbas threatened a “total collapse” of basic services.

The UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, warned the additional power cuts would have a disastrous effect.

Hospitals, water supply, waste water treatment and sanitation services have already been dramatically cut back since mid-April, he said, and depended almost exclusively on a UN emergency fuel operation.

A power plant in Gaza City is pictured from behind a fence on April 16, 2017. The Gaza Strip's only functioning power plant was out of action after running out of fuel, the head of the territory's electricity provider told AFP. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)
A power plant in Gaza City is pictured from behind a fence on April 16, 2017. The Gaza Strip’s only functioning power plant was out of action after running out of fuel, the head of the territory’s electricity provider told AFP. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

He called upon the PA, Hamas and Israel to put the welfare of Gaza’s residents first and to take the necessary measures to avoid further suffering.

The Hamas terror group has run Gaza since 2007, when it seized the territory in a bloody coup from Abbas loyalists in a dispute over parliamentary elections swept by the Islamist movement the previous year.

Multiple attempts at reconciliation between Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah movement have failed, but his Palestinian Authority has continued to pay for various services in Gaza, including some electricity delivered from Israel.

PA policy on the matter appears to have changed, however, and Hamas was seeing difficulties in maintaining many basic services.

AFP contributed to this report

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