Power struggles: Israel cuts electricity in West Bank

Power struggles: Israel cuts electricity in West Bank
Israel's state-owned energy company has cut the power supply to a number of Palestinian areas, including the West Bank city of Bethlehem, over claims of unpaid debts.
2 min read
05 April, 2016
The electricity cuts disrupt the operations of hotels and businesses in Bethlehem [Getty]

Israel's state-owned energy provider has cut the electric power supply to the West Bank city of Bethlehem without prior warning.

Monday's blackout, which came in response to allegations that the Palestinian Authority [PA] has a mounting debt of unpaid electricity bills, saw the major West Bank city's electricity reduced by 50 percent.

Further disruptions to the power supply are expected over the next two weeks, crossing over to other villages within the Bethlehem area, where more than 210,000 Palestinians live.

"The company's management stressed that it intends to take all available means to collect the debt and prevent it from growing further," Israel Electric Cooperation said in a statement.

It claims that the Palestinian Authority owes it nearly 1.7 billion shekel [$449 million] - a figure the PA says is greatly exaggerated.

But the PA has come under fire for taking no action to stop the power cuts.

The Palestinian Authority has done nothing to resolve the matter, Hisham al-Omari, director of the Jerusalem District Electricity Company, told Voice of Palestine radio.

Similar power cuts disrupted services at a hospital in West Bank city last year, putting many patients at risk [Getty]
"We tried as much as possible not to reach to this situation, but clearly this is a political decision," Omari said.

"Today everybody in Bethlehem suffered," he said, referring to the power cuts as a "collective punishment of Palestinians".

Power cuts hit Bethlehem's economy hard, with the city relying on tourism, and the operations of hotels and businesses will continue to be disrupted, Omari added.

Israel sells electricity to the PA, who sell it to Palestinian distribution companies that supply to households.

Last year, Israel cut off power to parts of the West Bank on numerous occasions over the cash-strapped PA's alleged debts.