Israel is to restore its full share of electricity supply to the Gaza Strip from Monday, ending more than six months of restrictions for the already power-starved Strip, officials said.
Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz on Sunday instructed the Israel Electric Corporation to increase the supply to maximum capacity, after more than half a year of a 40% reduction after the Palestinian Authority intentionally decreased payments to Israel.
Israel’s 10 power lines into Gaza, which can provide up to 120 megawatts, will be “fully operational” by Monday night, at the request of the PA, the Defense Ministry said.
On Wednesday, the Palestinian Authority announced it was to resume paying for its complete share of electricity for the Gaza Strip.
The measure comes amid a Palestinian reconciliation process between the PA and the Hamas terror group that has ruled the Strip for the last 10 years, and was one of the key demands by Hamas.
Abbas had dramatically reduced payments to Israel for the electricity — effectively slashing the supply — in a bid to pressure Hamas to loosen its grip on Gaza.
The PA has now requested that Israel now resume supplying another 50 megawatts to Gaza’s power lines, restoring the provision of electricity to Gaza to what it was prior to June 2017, said Civil Affairs Minister Hussein al-Sheikh in a statement to the official PA news site Wafa.
The return of the regular power supply to the Strip would mean Gazans would again see six to eight hours of electricity a day, rather than the two to four hours a day they received during the reduction. During the electricity crisis, some Gazans received more than four hours of electricity a day, thanks to supplies of fuel sent from Egyptian.
The extra shortages in electricity severely hampered essential services in Gaza, such as water treatment and healthcare and caused much hardship for the general population during the heatwaves of summer and the cold of winter.
The families of two IDF soldiers, whose bodies are being held by the Hamas terror group in Gaza, reacted angrily to the decision.
“The Israeli government headed by (Prime Minister Benjamin) Netanyahu and cabinet ministers today chose to surrender to Hamas again,” the family of Sgt. Oron Shaul said.
Leah Goldin, the mother of Lt. Hadar Goldin, turned directly to the people of Gaza in a statement posted on the Arabic Facebook page of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai.
In her statement, she said that retaining the bodies was against Islamic law, and she appealed to the mothers, fathers and children of the coastal enclave to return her son for burial, and not to allow themselves to be held hostage by the Hamas terrorist organization.
Until June, the PA had been paying NIS 40 million ($11.1 million) a month for 120 megawatts of electricity for Gaza. In June, the PA cut its electricity payments for Gaza to Israel by 35%, which led Israel to slowly reduce the number of megawatts it supplied the Strip from 120 to 70.
An Egyptian-brokered agreement in early October originally set a December 1 deadline for the terror group to fully transfer power in the Gaza Strip back to the Palestinian Authority, which is dominated by PA Abbas’s Fatah party, though that repeatedly pushed back as deadlines passed.
Hamas has demanded Abbas lift all sanctions he placed on the Strip as part of reconciliation measures.