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Israel cutting power in parts of occupied West Bank, citing debt

PA officials say power cut constitutes collective punishment and may deal serious blow to Palestinian economy
Fireworks lights sky above village of Deir al-Hatab, east of Nablus, in Israeli occupied West Bank on 22 September (AFP)

Israel's national electricity company said on Sunday it was cutting power to parts of the occupied West Bank because of outstanding debt.

The Israel Electric Corporation (IEC) said it was owed 1.7 billion shekels ($483m) by the main Palestinian power distributor for the occupied West Bank, which is based in East Jerusalem, AFP reported.

The chairman of the Palestinian Energy Authority, Zafer Melhem, said the Palestinian electric company had recently paid 374 million shekels and that the debt was only 700 million shekels, according to Haaretz.

Residents said that the electricity was indeed cut between noon and 2pm local time in some spots in the Jericho and Jordan Valley areas, and in villages around Ramallah, according to Haaretz.

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The Palestinian Authority (PA) denounced the move as "blackmail" by the Israeli authorities, and the Palestinian health ministry warned that power cuts may hurt hospitals and medical centres.

PA officials said the power cut constituted collective punishment and would deal a serious blow to the Palestinian economy, as well as to its health and education systems. They added that the Palestinian government was asking officials in the international community to protest the decision, Haaretz said.

In 2014, then coordinator of government activities in the territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, warned against an IEC plan to cut power in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying that supplying electricity to the Palestinians was not just a commercial issue for the IEC, but a strategic and diplomatic one for Israel, and that limiting power would be seen as an Israeli punishment against the civilian population, Haaretz reported.

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