Palestinian Hamas supporters shout slogans during a rally marking the 29th anniversary of the founding of the Hamas movement, in Gaza city December 14, 2016.
(photo credit: SUHAIB SALEM / REUTERS)
Hamas is responsible for the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Trump administration said as 2 million Palestinian in the Strip struggle to live on four hours a day of electricity.
“We do remain deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation there,” US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in Washington on Tuesday.
“We continue to underscore the need for international support for Gaza’s recovery and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people.”
She added: “But no one should lose sight of the fact, of this fact, that Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current situation in Gaza.”
Nauert did not comment on Israel’s security cabinet decision to cede to the Palestinian Authority’s request to reduce the electricity it supplies to Gaza, a move that would give the Palestinians living there only some two to three hours of power a day.
Israel reduces power supply to Gaza, as Abbas pressures Hamas (credit: REUTERS)
It’s part of the measures the PA is taking to regain control of the Strip, a decade after Hamas ousted Fatah in a bloody coup. The PA has told Israel that it would only pay NIS 25 million of its NIS 40m. monthly bill, explaining that Hamas could pay the remainder with tax fees it collects.
Liberman told Israel’s Kan Radio on Wednesday morning that Hamas has the funds to pay the electricity bill, but is diverting that money into a military buildup, particularly the construction of tunnels that it plans to use to attack Israel.
Hamas collects hundreds of millions of shekels in tax fees from Gaza residents and receives millions more from Iran and other extremists groups.
The cabinet decided that it was “crazy” to take Israeli taxpayers’ money to pay for Gaza electricity when Hamas refuses to do so, Liberman said.
He dismissed reports of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“It’s not Switzerland, but every day hundreds of trucks cross through Kerem Shalom [filled with goods],” Liberman said.
A check of social media photographs will show how Gaza has stores, markets and restaurants, he added.
For the last few months, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai has asked the international community to provide money for Gaza’s electricity.
Currently, Israel is the main supplier of electricity for the Strip, providing 125 MW out of the necessary 450 to 500 MW needed for round the clock power.
Gaza’s power plant, which provided 90 to 120 MW, shut down in April after the PA imposed an onerous tax on the diesel fuel needed to run the plant.
Israel has yet to reduce the electricity as ordered by the cabinet. On Wednesday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Palestinian Territories Robert Piper warned against making such a cut and called on the PA, Hamas and Israel to take all necessary steps to increase, rather than decrease, the power to Gaza.
“The UN has already appealed to the international community to support its limited humanitarian efforts to prevent the collapse of vital life-saving health, water, sanitation and municipal services,” Piper’s office said.
“Hospitals, water supply, waste water treatment and sanitation services have already been dramatically curtailed since mid-April and depend almost exclusively on a UN emergency fuel operation,” his office said.
“A further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors,” Piper said. “The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute,” he added.
Sixteen nongovernmental groups wrote a letter of protest to Attorney- General Avichai Mandelblit, including Gisha; Adalah; HaMoked: Center for the Defense of the Individual; The Association for Civil Rights in Israel; Physicians for Human Rights-Israel; Zazim; Bimkom; Yesh Din; Amnesty International Israel; B’Tselem; Breaking the Silence; Haqel; Akevot; Ir Amim; Peace Now; and Rabbis for Human Rights.
The groups asked him to advise the cabinet to rescind its decision, explaining that it was illegal under Israeli and international law. They quoted the 2008 Supreme Court, which set a “minimal threshold for Israel’s responsibilities toward residents of Gaza” and argued that the cabinet decision put Israel in the position of falling below that standard.