A Palestinian uses a gas lighter while he works inside his restaurant during a power outage in the Gaza Strip, November 17, 2013. (Emad Nassar/Flash90)

Israel will cut back electricity supply for Gaza after the Palestinian president said he would no longer pay the energy bill, worsening an energy crisis in the isolated enclave where many people are already without power for 20 hours a day.

Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), announced in April that his semi-government in the occupied West Bank would no pay the bill for electricity in Gaza, which is run by his rivals in the Islamist militant group Hamas.

The Israeli cabinet decided Sunday that it would accept Mr Abbas’s decision and begin scaling back electricity supply, despite the humanitarian impact on Gazans and concerns that the cuts might increase the likelihood of another war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

Gaza gets only around four hours of electricity every day and the initial cut is expected to reduce that time by around 45 minutes, Israeli media reported. It is not clear when the cuts will begin.

The electricity shortages affect all aspects for the two million people living in the small strip on the Mediterranean coast. Hospitals are cutting back operations, poor families cannot keep refrigerators running and people often struggle to charge their mobile phones. Clean water supplies are dwindling because there desalination plants are without power.

Israel has maintained a blockade on Gaza since 2007, when Hamas seized control of the territory during bloody street battles with the Palestinian Authority. But Israel also closely monitors the situation inside Gaza out of concern that a humanitarian collapse might spark a new war with Hamas.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli public security minister, said Monday that he did not think the reduction in electricity supply would necessarily lead to a new war. “It is not definite this will cause a military confrontation. It is possible that the Palestinians begin to understand the catastrophe that Hamas means for them,” he said.

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SOURCE: The Telegraph, Raf Sanchez

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