Israel reportedly cuts off electricity in Palestinian areas of West Bank due to debts

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The Israel Electric Corporation has reportedly threatened to start cutting electricity in Palestinian areas of the West Bank next week for more than half a billion shekels ($ 156,720,160) in unpaid bills.

From next Wednesday, power cuts will continue to hit Ramallah, Bethlehem and other areas near Jerusalem for four hours a day until debts are paid or a deal is reached, the police reported on Wednesday. Kan public channel.

Palestinians depend on Israel for almost all of their electricity, but often fall behind on payments to Israel, periodically triggering crises as the CIS tries to pressure the PA to pay back its debts . Israel has in the past forced the CIS to continue providing electricity out of concern for the Palestinian population.

Two weeks ago, the Palestinian Authority was informed for the second time by the Israeli authorities of the impending blackouts if the growing debt was not settled. Recognizing that it will not be able to provide the funds immediately, Ramallah presented Israel with a list of areas it is asking to be excluded from the no-go zones, Kan said. These include cities with hospitals or other essential facilities.

In addition, senior officials of the Palestinian Authority have undertaken trips abroad to raise funds. Intelligence chief Majed Faraj was in the United Arab Emirates this week and PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh was due to ask European allies for help. In recent years, the Palestinian Authority has plunged into an economic crisis made even worse by the pandemic. As the conflict with Israel continues to drag on with no resolution in sight and Ramallah continues to postpone its first election in more than 15 years, the willingness of the international community to foot the bill has also diminished.

The CIS took similar steps two years ago, cutting power to parts of the West Bank on the 1.7 billion shekels ($ 500 million) debt owed by the main Palestinian electricity distributor for the West Bank. The cuts lasted for about three months until the PA managed to pay off half of the debt incurred in January 2020.

Left to right: COGAT Chief Major General Yoav Mordechai, Palestinian Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheik, Israeli Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon and Director General of Israel’s Finance Ministry Shai Babad sign a agreement to settle NIS 2 billion debt owed by the Palestinian Authority to Israel Electric Corporation, September 12, 2016 (Facebook / COGAT)

In 2016, Israel and the Palestinian Authority reached an agreement to settle a debt that had accumulated to 2 billion shekels ($ 530 million), with Ramallah agreeing to pay Jerusalem 570 million shekels ($ 132 million). . The remaining balance of 1.5 billion shekels ($ 397 million) was to be paid in 48 installments.

Under an economic agreement signed with the Palestinian Authority in 1994, Israel collects around 600-700 million shekels ($ 159-185 million) each month in tariffs, which are levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets. which pass through Israeli ports.

He transfers the money after deducting around 100 million shekels ($ 26 million) for expenses such as Palestinian hospitalizations in Israel, sewage treatment and covering part of the electricity debt, which has remained largely stable in recent months.

In January 2015, the CIS cut power to Palestinian cities for several hours a day for a similar debt, to permanently renew the electricity supply a few weeks later.

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