Israel returns full power supply to Palestinian city

Friday 01/04/2016
Talks have not resolved debt problem

JERUSLAEM - Israel's state-run electricity company has restored full power supply to the Palestinian city of Jericho in the occupied West Bank after reducing it over an outstanding debt, officials said Sunday.

The cut on Thursday led to blackouts, but full supply was restored later the same day, according to Mansour Nassar of the Palestinian Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO).

The Israel Electric Corporation had reduced supply to Jericho over a debt of 1.7 billion shekels ($450 million, 397 million euros) owed by the private JDECO and Palestinian Authority.

An Israeli official said supply was reduced by half, while JDECO said it had been cut by two-thirds.

The Israeli official said the IEC could at any point renew the cut. It was not clear why Israel decided to restore power after the brief cut.

Thursday's cut had affected up to 30,000 people of a total population of around 50,000 in the city and surrounding area, according to Jericho governor Majed al-Fityani.

The Palestinian Authority is struggling financially and depends largely on foreign aid. It relies heavily on Israel for electricity supplies, which also provides electricity to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Ongoing talks with the IEC and PA have so far not resolved the debt problem.

In January 2015, the IEC cut power to Palestinian cities for a number of hours every day over a similar debt, only to renew it a few weeks later.

Under an economic agreement signed with the PA in 1994, Israel collects around 600-700 million shekels each month in customs duties levied on goods destined for Palestinian markets that transit through Israeli ports.

It transfers the money after deducting approximately 100 million shekels for expenses such as Palestinian hospitalisations in Israel, sewage treatment and covering part of the electricity debt, which has remained largely stable in recent months.

Tensions are running high after six months of violence which has left 200 Palestinians and 28 Israelis dead.

Most of the Palestinians killed were carrying out knife, gun or car-ramming attacks, while Israeli forces have been accused of using excessive force in some cases, charges which they have firmly denied.