A power station is seen in Ashdod.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Israel Electric Corporation decreased the flow of electricity to Jericho and the Jordan Valley to one-third of its normal flow on Thursday, according to Hisham al-Omari, director-general of the Arab Electricity Company in east Jerusalem.
The “illegal” move set a “dangerous precedent” and resulted in power outages in the entire area, Omari said.
The Israel Electricity Company did not warn the Palestinians in advance, he added.
Sources in the energy sector told The Jerusalem Post
that the supply of electricity to Jericho had only been halved, from 15 megawatts to 7.5 MW, as of Thursday morning due to an unpaid debt of around NIS 1.72 billion to the IEC.
Much of this debt can be ascribed to the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, which oversees the provision of power not only for Jericho, but also for Bethlehem, Ramallah and parts of east Jerusalem. A smaller portion of the debt is owed by the Palestinian Authority.
The sources said that the debt had worsened in recent years despite several negotiation attempts by the IEC to resolve it with the respective officials.
Omari acknowledged that his company had not paid all its debts to the IEC. He attributed this to late payments by customers and the “increased phenomenon of electricity theft” in the West Bank. He complained that such theft had caused tremendous damage to the network’s infrastructure, severely affecting its ability to provide its clients with various services.
He said the company had urged the PA to clamp down on those who steal electricity, but to no avail, and also expressed a fear that electricity reductions would be initiated against other Palestinian communities falling under the jurisdiction of the company.
Attempts by PA police to collect debts in some refugee camps and villages have resulted in violence, threats and intimidation against the policemen and employees of the Arab Electricity Company.
Omari renewed his appeal to Palestinians to pay their debts to the company and stop “all forms of electricity theft.” He also appealed to various institutions, including hospitals, to prepare emergency generators in case the IEC reduced the flow of electricity to their areas.
The Office of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories could not be reached for comment.