The lights will stay on in Gaza for now

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY JEFF BARAK

IS­RAEL WILL not cut off elec­tric­ity to the Gaza Strip for the time be­ing, fol­low­ing a rul­ing by the coun­try’s at­tor­ney-gen­eral, Me­nachem Mazuz.

Mr Mazuz re­jected the Defence Min­istry’s plans to re­duce the sup­ply of elec­tric­ity to the Ha­mas-ruled Gaza Strip be­cause it risked “ex­ac­er­bat­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian dif­fi­cul­ties for the civil­ian pop­u­la­tion in Gaza”.

In the past month, around 80 rock­ets and mor­tar shells have been fired at Is­rael from the Gaza Strip, ac­cord­ing to IDF fig­ures.

A Jus­tice Min­istry state­ment said that Mr Mazuz told the defence es­tab­lish­ment that it had to present a plan to en­sure Gaza’s civil­ian pop­u­la­tion would not be harmed by the re­duc­tion in elec­tric­ity sup­plies be­fore he would give his ap­proval for such move. The ma­jor­ity of Gaza’s elec­tric­ity is sup­plied by the Is­rael Elec­tric Cor­po­ra­tion.

On Mon­day, how­ever, Mr Mazuz did au­tho­rise a se­ries of eco­nomic sanc­tions against the Strip pro­posed by the Defence Min­istry.

Th­ese sanc­tions were an­nounced last week in ac­cor­dance with the Is­raeli cabi­net’s de­ci­sion in Septem­ber to re­gard the Gaza Strip as a “hos­tile en­tity”.

Ear­lier, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki­moon is­sued a state­ment say­ing that Is­rael’s “puni­tive mea­sures” against the Gaza Strip were “un­ac­cept­able”. In his state­ment, the UN leader said he also “strongly con­demns” the “in­dis- crim­i­nate at­tacks by Pales­tinian mil­i­tants tar­get­ing Is­rael”.

The EU Com­mis­sioner for Ex­ter­nal Re­la­tions, Benita Fer­rero-Wald­ner, also crit­i­cised the planned power cuts, terming them a form of “col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment.”

In a meet­ing with Is­raeli Pres­i­dent Shi­mon Peres in Jerusalem ear­lier in the week, Ms Fer­rero-Wald­ner ar­gued that such mea­sures “would play into the hands of the more rad­i­cal peo­ple who are try­ing to de­rail the on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the par­ties”.

The EU com­mis­sioner also warned that a fail­ure of Ge­orge Bush’s planned Mid­dle East sum­mit in An­napo­lis — sched­uled for later this month — could lead to in­creased Is­raeli-Pales­tinian blood­shed.

Mean­while, in re­sponse to the rocket at­tacks, defence min­is­ter Ehud Barak hinted that a large-scale IDF op­er­a­tion was im­mi­nent.

“Ev­ery day that passes brings us closer to a broad op­er­a­tion in Gaza,” Mr Barak told Army Ra­dio.

“We are not happy to do it, we’re not rush­ing to do it, and we’ll be happy if cir­cum­stances suc­ceed in pre­vent­ing it,” he de­clared.

“But the time is ap­proach­ing when we’ll have to un­der­take a broad op­er­a­tion in Gaza,” added Mr Barak.


Pales­tini­ans gather to protest against Is­raeli sanc­tions in the Gaza Strip

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