The lights will stay on in Gaza for now
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