Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and Egyptian Foreign Minister Samih Shukri met in Cairo on Saturday, days before US President Donald Trump’s administration plans to dispatch a high-level delegation to the Middle East.

On Thursday, Egyptian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ahmad Abu Zeid said that the aim of the trilateral meeting is to discuss coordinating positions before the Trump administration delegation’s arrival in the Middle East.

“The goal of the meeting is for the three states… to consult and coordinate before the visit of the American delegation to the region,” Abu Zeid said.

The White House delegation, which is expected to travel to a number of Middle Eastern countries including Israel, the Palestinian territories, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in the coming days, is slated to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, PA President Mahmoud Abbas and other Middle Eastern leaders. The Trump administration delegation will comprise senior Trump adviser Jared Kushner, US special representative for international negotiations Jason Greenblatt and US deputy national security advisor Dina Powell.

According to a White House official, Trump believes the relative calm in Israel and the Palestinian territories at the current moment presents an “opportunity to continue discussions and the pursuit of peace.”

Last week, the Executive Committee, the top PLO body, called on the Trump administration to declare that it supports the two-state solution and to ask Israel to halt settlement construction.

“The Executive Committee urged the American administration to back the principle of two states along the 1967 borders and ask the occupation authority, Israel, to halt colonial settlement activities,” an Executive Committee statement published on August 12 said.

The Trump administration has refrained from taking clear-cut positions on both the two-state solution and settlements, bucking former President Barak Obama’s policies on the issues.

Trump told a White House press conference in February that he “is looking at two-state and one-state” and that he is “happy with the one that both parties like.”

Since February, neither Trump nor his White House staff have backed a two-state or one-state solution.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has reportedly tried to convince Israel to limit settlement construction, but steered clear of condemning or calling it illegal.

Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said on Monday that the Palestinians are considering turning to international bodies including the UN if the US administration fails to revive a “serious peace process.”

Ahmad defined a “serious peace process” as one in which the US and Israel announce their support for a two-state solution and Israel halts settlement activity.

Abu Zeid, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman, also said the three foreign ministers will hold talks about coordinating positions before the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York City in September.




Five Palestinian journalists have been arrested in the West Bank by Palestinian Authority security forces in what a human rights monitoring group has termed a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

All five were arrested at or near their homes on Tuesday night by the General Intelligence Service, according to Shireen al-Khatib, monitoring and documentation associate at the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedom (Mada).

A senior security source quoted by the official Palestinian news agency Wafa said four journalists were being held on suspicion of “leaking sensitive information to hostile authorities.” The source said an investigation was under way.

Khatib identified the journalists as Tariq Abu Zayd and Ahmad Halaika of Al-Aksa television, a Hamas-run station, Qutaiba Kasem who writes for the Asdaa website, Mamdouh Hamamreh of the pro-Hamas al-Quds television and Amer Abu Arafa of the Shehab news agency. The Wafa report mentioned all the journalists except for Halaika.

Abu Arafa was arrested after his home was searched and his computer and mobile phone seized, Khatib said.

A West Bank journalist who requested anonymity said “this is not the first time journalists are being arrested but it is the first time five are arrested in one night.”

In the view of the journalist who spoke with The Jerusalem Post the arrests might be aimed at pressuring Hamas to release Fouad Jaradah, a reporter for the PA’s Palestine TV, who was arrested in Gaza on June 8 and was later accused of collaborating with the authority.

“Journalists are paying the price of the Fatah- Hamas conflict,” the West Bank journalist said.

Of the accusation that the five journalists arrested on Tuesday had leaked sensitive information, he said: “No one believes that.”

The Ramallah-based Independent Commission for Human Rights, which monitors rights abuses in the PA, demanded the immediate release of the journalists and called on the authority to “stop the persecution of journalists for their journalistic work.” It termed the arrests a “serious blow to freedom of opinion and expression.”

The Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights termed the arrests a “dangerous development.”

In a statement it criticized both the PA and the Hamas government.

“PCHR follows up with concern the measures taken by the authorities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and warns of the arbitrary use of legal texts or fabricating charges to beat their political rivals. This results in serious consequences on the legal system, rights and freedoms in general.

“PCHR calls for releasing the six journalists in the West Bank and Gaza Strip until the validity of the charges against them will be proven in accordance with proper and transparent procedures.”

The human rights group al-Haq, which is also based in Ramallah, said the arrests “come in the wake of a dangerous regression in the condition of rights and liberties in the West Bank and Gaza, especially freedom of opinion and expression and journalistic work.” It said that authorities had blocked journalists from covering peaceful gatherings.

PA government spokesman Yusuf Mahmoud said he could not comment on the arrests since they were under the purview of the security apparatus. But he took issue with the criticism that the PA was harming freedom of expression.

“The authority in all manners respects freedom of the press and freedom of expression,” he said. “This is guaranteed in the agreements signed by the national authority and in the law.

The authority adheres to the freedom of journalists and citizens and greatly respects that.”

In June, the PA blocked access to 11 websites that back Hamas or Muhammad Dahlan, a bitter rival of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel, Jordan, PA to hold first-of-its-kind joint firefighting and rescue exercise

Israel will join Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, as well as three European countries, for a first-of-its-kind joint drill of their emergency services.

According to the Israel Hayom newspaper, the Middle East Forest Fire exercise, or MEFF, is slated to take place from October 22 to 26 in Jordan and Israel, and will include rescue forces from Italy, France, Spain and Croatia.

The exercise will test the capacity of all sides to cooperate in major rescue operations, including a focus on firefighting, rescues from collapsed buildings and other emergency situations.

The planning stage of the exercise is set to take place in Jordan before the field training begins in Israel.

Palestinian firefighters from the West Bank city of Jenin arrive to help extinguish a fire in the northern Israeli city of Haifa following a wildfire, on November 25, 2016. (AFP/Jack Guez)

The exercise will pit rescue crews against a forest fire in the Carmel region similar to the one that claimed 44 lives in 2010, as well as fires in the towns of Yatir and Amatzia. At Kibbutz Lahav in the south, rescuers will face a fire that threatens the village’s buildings and includes people trapped in its path. In the central city of Lod, forces will practice rescuing people from a building that collapsed after a gas explosion.

Jordan will send two helicopters, 60 rescuers, 40 fire engines and 15 medical teams, Israel Hayom reported. The Palestinian Authority is slated to send two firefighting planes, a command plane and transport planes, as well as 15 rescuers and 40 fire engines.

France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia will each send medical and rescue teams and firefighting planes.

Israel’s own contingent is set to include both civilian rescuers from the Fire and Rescue Services and military teams from the Home Front Command.



The Palestinian Authority and Morocco are working to upend an Africa-Israel summit scheduled for Lomé, Togo, at the end of October, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to African diplomatic officials, the PA is putting pressure on Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé to cancel the summit, and is also urging Muslim countries in Africa not to attend, saying that going to the conference will show support for Israel and be a setback for the Palestinian struggle.

Togo will send invitations to all 54 African states to attend the four-day Africa-Israel summit, while between 20 and 30 heads of state are expected to take part. Israel has diplomatic ties with 40 of the 48 sub-Saharan African states.

According to the officials, PA President Mahmoud Abbas asked to meet Gnassingbé at the African Union summit held in Addis Ababa at the beginning of July and urged him to reconsider the Africa-Israel summit. One senior African official said this was the first time Abbas had ever asked to meet the Togolese leader, who has been in office since 2005.

Gnassingbé’s reply, according to sources familiar with the meeting, was that he is running his country in the way he sees fit, that he is friendly with both Israel and the Palestinians, and that if the summit is something that can help strengthen Israel’s economy, then that is something that is ultimately good for the Palestinians as well.

Gnassingbé is scheduled to visit Israel next week for a private three-day visit, during which he will also meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been here three times in the past year and also met with Netanyahu when the premier attended the Economic Community of West African States conference in Liberia in June.

Like the Palestinians, according to one African diplomatic official, Morocco has been urging African states not to attend the planned parley, but the Moroccans’ reasons are different: They are unhappy with Israel’s inroads into Africa because they view Israel as a competitor on the continent.

“Morocco is trying to come back to Africa as a superpower,” the source said. “They see Israel as competition, and are telling African leaders to be careful about attending the summit, and that it will create problems for them in getting subsidies from Saudi Arabia or Islamic organizations.”

Interestingly, the source said, neither Algeria nor the Saudis has taken any measures to try to keep African leaders from attending the summit. Neither, he pointed out, has South Africa, Israel’s harshest critic in sub-Saharan Africa, and the country that has stood in the way of Jerusalem being granted observer status at the African Union.

According to the official, the South African government is more occupied now with internal turmoil within the African National Congress party than with an Africa-Israel summit in Lomé. Gnassingbé is intent on holding the meeting regardless of any political risk involved, the official said. One of the main reasons is that it will add to his and Togo’s prestige.

“If you hold an Africa-Africa summit, nobody cares, including the international media,” the official said. “Nobody will write or publish anything because you have some kind of African summit almost every day. But if you do something with Israel, you will get some kind of coverage – either positive or negative – because Israel is involved. Since the summit is taking place in Togo, people will talk about the president and his country, and they will see him as an actor on the international stage.”

The source said that the media coverage expected from the summit is almost as important for Togo as the summit itself. The added value, he said, is there is also good chance that some of the more than 130 Israeli companies that will be present at the summit will chose to do business in the country.

The summit, which has been almost two years in the planning, will focus on security, counter-terrorism, economic ties and cooperation in the fields of agriculture, health and education as well as new technology. It is taking place at time when Netanyahu has made strengthening ties with Africa one of his top foreign policy priorities.

In deal with Israel, PA takes ‘historic’ step toward energy independence

AL-JALAMEH, West Bank — High-ranking Palestinian and Israeli officials gathered in a field outside the West Bank city of Jenin on Monday to turn on the first-ever piece of Palestinian-owned electricity infrastructure and ink a new electricity agreement between the two sides.

The deal, hailed as “historic” by signatories, will for the first time set parameters for the supply of power between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which for years has seen the PA default on billions of shekels of debt and Israel subsequently withhold electricity.

After the signing of the agreement, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, Israel’s Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz, Israel Electric Corporation Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal and Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Major General Yoav Mordechai together turned on the Al-Jalameh Substation.

Al-Jalameh is the Jenin-region village nearest to the station, in the northern West Bank.

The station will allow Israel to send up to 135 more megawatts to the northern West Bank area, though the agreement currently calls for just 60 more. The energy will provide a much-needed boost to the Jenin area, which has suffered power outages more than any other Palestinian West Bank region.

Power company workers seen at the new power plant near Jenin, July 10, 2017. (Dov Lieber for the Times of Israel)

The station also represents the first time the Palestinians will be able to control the distribution of the electricity to their own towns and cities.

The PA will still have to buy its power from the Israel Electric Corporation. But apart from that, once the power is handed off to the PA, it’s in Palestinian hands.

When infrastructure breaks down — which once necessitated Israeli teams escorted by the army to perform repairs, which inevitably caused delays — Palestinian teams will be responsible for dealing with any problems.

The station was built by the Israel Electric Corporation, by both Israeli and Palestinian workers, but it is owned by the Palestinian Electric Authority (PEA) and the PA. The IEC also trained Palestinians to work, maintain and fix the site.

Steinitz described the deal as a “win-win project” for Israel and the Palestinians.

“It’s good for Palestinians because they will get more electricity, which will be more stable and of higher quality. It’s good for Israel because…the responsibility [for Palestinian electricity] won’t fall on the shoulders of the Israeli Electric Corporation,” he said.

The coordinator of government activities in the West Bank Yoav (Poli) Mordechai (second from left) and Minister of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Resources Yuval Steinitz sit with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah (far right) and Yiftah Ron-Tal, head of the Israel Electric Corporation (far left), at a ceremony to mark the first-ever signing of a commercial agreement between the two authorities to increase electricity in the West Bank area of Jenin, July 10, 2017. (Dov Lieber for the Times of Israel)

Steinitz added that the project showed that “If we speak together and work together, we can make advancements in the field.”

Steinitz also said the deal will “be a model” for how Israel can work together with the PA to advance the Palestinians’ water supply and water treatment infrastructure.

Jenin is the first region to receive a substation, but three more are on the way — in the Hebron region in the south, in the Ramallah region in the center and in Nablus in the mid-northern West Bank. With all four stations, the Palestinian Authority will control the power flow across all the territory it controls.

Hamdallah, the PA prime minister, described the project as “pivotal to enhance our independence so we can meet the growing needs of our people in the electricity sector.”

He thanked Israel for “its cooperation to facilitate” the completion of the project.

These substations are only the first phase in a plan to make the Palestinians more energy independent.

The Palestinians — both governmental and private investment firms — are currently building their own power producing plant in Jenin, slated to be finished by the end of 2019 or 2020. It will cost an estimated $620 million to build.

When it’s operational, it will produce 400-450 megawatts, which is 50% of the PA’s current electricity needs in the West Bank. The plant will run on natural gas, which Palestinians can purchase from Israel. The hope, however, is that the PA will be able to tap into the Palestinians’ own natural gas field off the shores of Gaza, and become self-sufficient.

The document signed on Monday only pertains to the Jenin area. It is a smaller agreement that is meant to pave the way for a contract that will deal with the entirety of electricity cooperation between Israel and the PA.

The Al-Jalameh station, built in three years, was bought from the IEC for 12 million euros.

The project was partially subsidized by Italy, Norway, the European Union, USAID, and the European Investment Bank.

In September 2016, the PA and Israel signed an agreement that transferred control of West Bank electrical infrastructure to the PA. Under that deal, the PA also began paying off its outstanding power bill of NIS 2 billion ($560 million).

Three quarters of that is still owed, and is meant to be paid off in 48 installments.

The contract signed on Monday allows the IEC to increase electricity supply to the Jenin region without fearing the piling up of more debt from the Palestinians.

Yael Nevo of the Israel Electric Company poses with her Palestinian counterpart Jihad Barri at a ceremony to mark the first-ever signing of a commercial agreement between the two authorities to increase electricity in the West Bank area of Jenin, July 10, 2017. (Dov Lieber for the Times of Israel)

Yael Nevo, the lawyer for the IEC who led the negotiations with the Palestinian Electric Authority, told The Times of Israel that the agreement allows the IEC to legally cut off the power after one missed bill. However, she added, an understanding was reached that will allow the Palestinians to miss three months of bills before the power is cut.

Nevo said it was a “great experience” working with the Palestinian side.

“The negotiations were in very good spirits. Each side defended its interests while understanding the other side’s concerns, and finding creative contractual solutions,” she said.

Steinitz said such “win-win” projects would continue “regardless of the political situation.”

Hamdallah said that while promoting economic development was important, “the political track remains the most important.”

With the Israeli minister and COGAT chief Mordechai sitting beside him, the PA premier called on the “international community to exert its influence and intensify its intervention in order to save the two-state solution, and end the military occupation of our land.”

Hamdallah did not reference the current electricity crisis in Gaza, which has seen the residents of the Strip receive only between 2-6 hours of power daily since April. The crisis was caused after the PA decided to reduce its funding of Israeli-supplied electricity to the Strip by 35%, in a bid to force the rival Hamas terror group to cede control of the enclave.

With Gaza ailing, PA accused of slashing medical aid by nearly 90%

The feud between Palestinian factions that has led to an electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip has also brought about a serve shortage of medicine and medical equipment in the Hamas-run enclave, a rights watchdog said this week, detailing a worsening humanitarian situation.

According to information given to Physicians for Human Rights (PHRI) Israel by Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, “one-third of essential medicines and more than 270 medical equipment items for operating rooms and intensive care units can no longer be obtained in the Health Ministry’s storerooms and in Gaza hospitals.“

The organization said the cause of the shortages is the Palestinian Authority’s slashing of funds sent to Gaza, including for healthcare operations and medical supplies.

The PA, according to information given to PHRI, used to pay $4 million monthly for the regular operations of 13 government hospitals and 54 primary care centers. In April it was down to $2.3 million, and in May it fell to just $500,000, the organization said.

In April, the Israeli daily Haaretz quoted a senior adviser to PA President Mahmoud Abbas who said Ramallah is slashing the health care budget for Gaza as part of the series of measures meant to coerce Hamas to relinquish some control of the Strip and give it back to the PA.

“We realize this sounds cruel, but in the end, after 10 years of the split and Hamas rule in the Strip, [Hamas] must decide whether it will control things in every sense, including ongoing expenses, or let the Palestinian government rule,” the adviser said.

On Sunday, Israeli ministers decided to heed a request by Abbas to slash the amount of electricity provided to Gaza, significantly ramping up tensions with Hamas, which warned the move could lead to an outbreak of violence.

Both Israel and the PA charge that Hamas would have the money to supply Gaza’s power needs if the group didn’t expend a large part of its resources on armament and preparation for future conflict with the Jewish state.

With the cuts, the amount of power the Strip’s 2 million residents receive will be cut by around 45-60 minutes a day from the 4-6 hours they currently get.

The power cuts could hit hospitals particularly hard, with little fuel to keep emergency generators running.

The silhouette of Palestinian boy is seen on their makeshift home in the Khan Yunis refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on April 19, 2017. (Mahmud Hums/AFP)

According to a Gaza health ministry document given to The Times of Israel by PHRI, the stocks of fuel to power hospital generators will run out by mid-July.

The monthly average fuel needed to meet the demand for the ministry’s hospitals, the document states, is 430,000 liters per month, costing approximately $450,000.

According to the physicians group, there is also a severe lack of medicines and equipment in the Palestinian enclave.

PHRI, quoting statistics from the Hamas-run ministry, said most cancer patients are not able to receive proper treatment because of shortfalls.

One of the hardest hit groups due to the medicine shortage are 321 patients suffering from the chronic lung disease of cystic fibrosis, mostly children, who can’t get the relevant pills and vitamins.

“In the Gaza Strip, there are 321 patients who require 40,000 Creon pills, but the storerooms are completely empty and the supply level reached zero,” said Ashraf A-Shanti, Chair of the Association of Cystic Fibrosis Patients in Gaza, according to a statement released by PHRI.

The electricity crisis in the Strip also means the patients cannot use their breathing regulating devices due to the frequent power failures.

In addition, some 240 infants with developmental deficits have no more access to therapeutic milk formula, to treat complicated severe acute malnutrition, which “is essential to the infants’ physiological and cognitive development,” PHRI said.

A newborn is seen inside an incubator at the neonatal intensive care unit at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on April 23, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)

PHRI Executive Director Ran Goldstein told The Times of Israel on Monday that he believes Israel is also partly responsible for the current crises in Gaza.

“The responsibility is not only on one side.The fact that the PA isn’t transferring funding for the health system is their responsibility, but the fact that Israel still controls, together with Egypt, every port in Gaza…imports and exports, it still has a lot of responsibility,” he said.

“Israel can choose a better approach that can save innocent people from dying,” he added.

The Jewish state, he said, can provide funds, medicines, electric power and open Gaza to the outside world for “urgent” humanitarian help.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip, which Jerusalem says is needed to keep materials that could be used for terror activity or in fighting against Israel. The border authority allows in humanitarian goods and also gives some Gazans permits to enter Israel for medical care.

The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry Branch that deals with Palestinian Civilian Affairs, emphasized “the list of equipment entering Gaza is run by the Palestinian Authority and is decided in accordance to their considerations.”

COGAT argued that Israel works in the background “to promote civil policies in order to assist the residents of Gaza.”

This, despite the fact, COGAT said, Hamas “continuously attempts to take advantage of the civil steps promoted by Israel,” including using the permits given to Gazans “to transfer terror funds, weapons, instructions and intelligence to perform terror attacks in Israel.”

According to COGAT, in 2016, 30,768 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical attention. In 2017, so far, 13,530 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical attention, and in June that number is 732.

In April, the Shin bet security service said it had caught two sisters, one of whom is a cancer sufferer, attempting to sneak explosives from the Strip into Israel, disguising it in medicine.

Nearly 900 ‘at risk of death’

Gaza’s health ministry spokesperson Dr. Ashraf al Qidra warned Monday of “dangerous consequences for the sick and general public health” in Gaza should the reduction in electricity take place.

Gazan Jumana Daoud carries her 7-month-old daughter Maryam at Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem on February 20, 2017, as they meet for the first time since the baby's premature birth. (AFP/AHMAD GHARABLI)

According to the ministry’s document given to The Times of Israel by PHRI, 212 ICU and NICU patients as well as another 647 patients on hemodialysis “are at risk of death” due to the power shortages.

In Shifa Hospital, Gaza’s largest, according to the document, over 1,000 “elective” surgeries are currently postponed.

Gazans are also dependent on water desalination plants to provide them with drinking water. Without power, the operation of these plants will be further compromised.

Housing Minister Yoav Galant, who is a member of the Israeli security cabinet, told The Times of Israel during a briefing with reporters on Monday that Israel is “willing to get any kind of support” from the international community to ease the humanitarian crisis.

“We have to make sure there is enough water and medicine in the Gaza Strip. We are doing our best,” he said, without elaborating on what exactly Israel is doing.

Israel to reduce electricity to Gaza, after PA refuses to pay

Israel said on Sunday that it would reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip, after the Palestinian Authority said it would not continue to pay the bill.

The decision, which could have a major humanitarian impact on the Strip’s two million residents, who are already facing an energy crisis, was announced by Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) Major General Yoav (Poly) Mordechai during an interview on BBC Arabic.

“Israel is forced to reduce the supply of electricity to the Gaza Strip,” he said, blaming the move on an internal power struggle between the Palestinians.

“This is an internal Palestinian issue, not an Israeli-Palestinian issue,” Mordechai said. “Unfortunately there are internal problems between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and this brought about a decision by the PA not to finance the electricity,” he added.

The PA first informed Israel back in April it would no longer pay for Gaza’s electricity.

Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai in 2015 (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The move is part of a series of steps aimed a forcing Hamas to either cede control of the Gaza Strip back to the PA, or take full responsibility for the enclave.

Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007 after a violent conflict with PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party.

A spokesperson for COGAT told The Times of Israel “no official time” has been chosen to put the measure into effect.

According to Mordechai, Israel is presently the only supplier of electricity to the Gaza Strip.

Gaza’s residents have already been experiencing deep power cuts for the last two months, having just four to six hours of electricity a day.

A Palestinian street vendor waits for customers during a power cut in Gaza City, on April 20, 2017. (AFP Photo/Mohammed Abed)

The embattled enclave’s only power plant stopped running in April, after Hamas ran out of fuel and refused to purchase more from the Palestinian Authority over what it said were high taxes.

Egypt also provided a small amount of power to Gaza, but those power lines have been malfunctioning.

According to Mordechai, Israel currently supplies Gaza with 125 megawatts monthly — around 30% of what is needed to power Gaza for 24 hours a day. Israel had also decided to provide another 100 megawatts a month.

After the new decision is implemented, Israel will supply Gaza with only 75 megawatts a month.

The PA has been paying 40 million shekels ($11.1 million) a month for the 125 megawatts. Mordechai said he received an “official notice” from Ramallah saying it is “interested in transferring” just 20-25 million shekels ($5.6- 7 million) a month for electricity to Gaza.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri rejected to Mordechai’s assertions, saying that “Israel does not provide electricity to Gaza for free. It deducts more than $80 million monthly from through customs taxes.”

In May, Hussein al-Sheikh, head of the PA’s Civil Affairs Department, said Hamas profits from collecting electricity payments from Gaza residents.

“We are not going to continue financing the Hamas coup in Gaza,” he told the Voice of Palestine radio station.

Mordechai echoed these accusations.

“Unfortunately, Hamas takes NIS 100 million ($28 million) a month from residents of the Gaza Strip: from the goods, from the taxes of all the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and this does not reach the Palestinian Authority,” he said.

“The reason for this is that Hamas prefers that the money go to the tunnels, to the digging and to the organization,” he added.

The Israeli general said Hamas leaders enjoy electricity 24 hours a day, and that each member of the group is provided with a generator and fuel. “Hamas prefers its interests over the interests of the people of Gaza,” he said.

Without a sufficient supply of power, Gaza’s current “humanitarian crisis” will deepen, the World Bank warned in an April report.

Gaza’s health ministry has warned of cutbacks on hospital care due to a lack of power.

Gazans are also dependent on water desalinization plants to provide them with drinking water. Without power, the operation of these plants will be further compromised.

Palestinians fill bottles and jerrycans with drinking water from public taps at the Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip, on February 22, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Water expert Dr. Yousef Abu-Mayla from the University of Al-Azhar of Gaza said earlier this month at the Sharing Knowledge Foundation Conference in Jordan that just 10% of Gazans currently have access to safe drinking water, as even desalinated Gaza water is susceptible to biological contamination.

The price of drinkable water in Gaza is so prohibitive, he added, “vulnerable households end up spending one-third of their income on water.”

Hamas, which openly calls for the Jewish state’s destruction, has fought three wars with Israel since 2007, and continues to manufacture rockets and dig tunnels into Israel in preparation for another round of conflict.

PA tells Israel it will no longer pay for Gaza’s electricity

The Palestinian Authority on Thursday informed Israel it would no longer pay for electricity that the Jewish state supplies to the Gaza Strip, as a power crisis in the Hamas-run enclave deepened.

News of the PA refusal to sponsor electricity came in a statement by the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhri called the move “a dangerous escalation, and a fit of insanity.”

“We warn Israel against taking this move,” he said.

The move is one of a series of measures taken recently by the PA, aimed at forcing Hamas to either take full responsibility for the territory it governs, or to relinquish control back to the PA.

The PA’s power play comes during an existing energy crisis, after Hamas refused to buy fuel from the PA for the enclave’s only power plant.

Currently, the energy shortage in Gaza has left the Strip’s residents with as little as four hours of power a day.

The World Bank said on Thursday the power cuts have led to a “humanitarian crisis,” hitting hospitals, clinics, water supply and other vital services, as well as household needs.

A newborn is seen inside an incubator at the neonatal intensive care unit at the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on April 23, 2017. (Said Khatib/AFP)

Without energy provided by Israel, it is unclear how Gaza can maintain even its current scarce levels of electricity.

Israel has been providing Gaza energy through 10 power lines, supplying 125 megawatts, which is 30 percent of the amount needed to power Gaza 24 hours a day.

The cost of this energy supply, which was paid for by the PA, was NIS 40 million a month.

The only other source of energy is provided by Egyptian power lines, which provide 25 megawatts — just 6.25% of the amount necessary to power Gaza for a full day.

Private individuals or international donors can pick up the energy bill for Gaza.

In the past, Qatar has stepped in to buy fuel for the power plant, but has so far showed no intention of coming to the Strip’s rescue in the current crisis.

The Hamas terror group seized power in Gaza in 2007 from the Ramallah-based Fatah organization of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Since then, however, the PA has continued to use a large amount of its small budget to pay for vital infrastructure in the enclave.

In 2016, the PA’s overall budget was $4.14 billion, of which the Gaza Strip’s share was $1.65 billion–approximately 40 percent of PA funds.

At the same time, Hamas has continued to impose high taxes on Gaza’s residents, while funneling the revenue into its coffers and military wing for weaponry to fight Israel.

Members of the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, attend a memorial in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah on January 31, 2017. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The renewed push by the PA to regain a foothold in Gaza comes ahead of Abbas’s meeting with US President Donald Trump at the White House next week. Ahead of the Washington confab, Abbas was under pressure to show that he represents all Palestinians, including those in Gaza.

In March, Hamas announced it would form an administrative committee to further its governance in Gaza. The announcement infuriated Abbas, who immediately began taking steps to squeeze Hamas out of power.

In early April, Abbas reduced by one-third the salaries of tens of thousands of employees of the pre-Hamas government in Gaza who had been paid for the last decade, on condition that they stay home.

The ongoing salary payments had been intended to ensure loyalty to Abbas, but inadvertently also propped up Hamas by injecting cash into Gaza’s fragile economy.

Khalil al-Haya, the second-highest ranking Hamas leader in Gaza, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Abbas will fail “if he tries to make Gaza kneel or expects to win our loyalty by force.”

“You can’t punish the one who lives in tough conditions,” al-Haya said. “Gaza is an explosive barrel and he (Abbas) cannot press this barrel more. If he does, it’s going to explode in his face and in all directions.”

White House ‘plans to boost aid to PA — while cutting it everywhere else’

The White House is looking to significantly reduce its foreign aid programs around the world, but plans to increase assistance to the Palestinian Authority, according to documents obtained by Foreign Policy magazine.

An internally circulated budget proposal for 2018 would see deep cuts in assistance to developing countries. It also seeks to merge the USAID program into the State Department, as part of its scaling back of aid programs.

But while many initiatives could see their funds reduced by dozens of percentage points — and even nixed entirely — aid to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip would see an increase of 4.6 percent, from $205 million in 2017 to $215 million in 2018.

Meanwhile the document proposes cuts to health funding in 41 countries, while the Bureau for Food Security could lose around 70 percent of its funds. It would also cut almost $1 billion to efforts to battle climate change. Development assistance to 77 countries would be cut entirely, with the money instead diverted to the economic support fund, a program closely tied to US political and strategic objectives, according to FP.

The proposed budget is likely to have a difficult time in Congress, where many conservative legislators oppose cuts to foreign aid.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas attends the summit of the Arab League at the Dead Sea, Jordan, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. (AP Photo/ Raad Adayleh)

Senior Palestinian officials traveled to Washington Sunday to prepare for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s visit to the White House next week for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump.

PLO Secretary General and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat will lead the delegation in a series of high-level meeting with administration officials, including Trump’s son-in-law adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East peace envoy Jason Greenblatt.

Palestinian intelligence chief Majed Faraj and Abbas’s senior economic adviser, Muhammed Mustasfa, will also be part of the delegation.

Trump is set to host Abbas at the White House on May 3 for talks on efforts to revive the Middle East peace process, the White House said last week.

PA fumes at Qatar accusation it doesn’t care about Gaza energy crisis

The Palestinian Authority angrily denied an accusation from Qatar’s special envoy to the Gaza Strip that it is not doing its best to solve an electricity crisis in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party on Sunday night condemned Qatari official Muhammad al-Amadi for the allegation, which he made in an interview with The Times of Israel. (The interview also appeared in Hebrew on the Walla news site.)

The Fatah statement said that while the group welcomes contributions or donations from the likes of Qatar and Turkey for the benefit of Gaza, it totally rejects accusations that the PA is not committed to the residents of the Strip.

On Sunday night Amadi met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah to discuss a plan to end the Gaza energy crisis.

Before that meeting, Amadi had said in an unprecedented interview that while Israel has agreed to play its part in such a deal, the Palestinian Authority has been delaying it.

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

Palestinians chant slogans during a protest against the ongoing electricity crisis in Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip, January 12, 2017. (AFP/MOHAMMED ABED)

In response, Fatah sources told The Times of Israel said there are some, including Qatar, who are interested in preserving the internal Palestinian rift, a reference to the stormy and sometimes violent relationship between Hamas and Fatah.

Those entities are trying to arrange a “popular summit” in Istanbul without coordinating with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the official representative of the Palestinian people, the sources added.

Amadi, who heads the National Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, has long been shuttling between Doha, Israel, and the Gaza Strip. He is the Qatar royal family’s official envoy in charge of the Gaza reconstruction, and has the title of ambassador.

In his role, Amadi has succeeded in resolving a variety of crises, including a recent spate of power cuts that sparked stormy demonstrations against Hamas across the Strip.

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