Israel’s national electric company said Sunday it has begun reducing power supplies to Palestinian areas of the West Bank due to a financial dispute.
The Israel Electric Corporation said that it took the step because the Jerusalem District Electricity Co., the Palestinians’ main power distributor, has debts of roughly $485 million.
Ali Hamodeh, an official with the Palestinian distributor, said power is expected to be cut for two hours daily in several Palestinian towns in the coming weeks.
He accused Israel of “exaggerating” the level of debt and called the power cuts a “political exploit.”
The Palestinians rely on Israel for nearly all of their electricity.
According to Al-Monitor, the Palestinian distributor received its first warning in August, prompting it to take out a NIS 100 million loan ($28.3 million) to repay a portion of its debt to the Israel Electric Corporation. This was deemed insufficient, however, and the IEC issued two additional warnings before taking action on Sunday to reduce power to Palestinian areas.
Palestinian officials have decried the step as a form of “collective punishment,” according to the official PA Wafa news agency.
According to a report by the Kan public broadcaster on Saturday, the IEC, fearing an escalation of violence, will cut power gradually and only in certain areas, stepping up the penalties gradually if the debts remain unpaid.