Seventy thousand Gazans from Khan Younis and Deir el-Balah were in the dark Sunday night after a Hamas rocket hit the power line that supplies electricity to those places. It's not clear when Israel Electric Company workers will be able to repair the system, but they are apparently in no rush to do so. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has asked the IEC not to risk the lives of its employees in trying to restore power to the affected sector in Gaza, an operation that could take hours.
As Operation Protective Edge enters its seventh day, many Israelis are demanding that the country take more aggressive action against Hamas in order to put a halt to the seemingly endless missile attacks from Gaza. One suggestion that has come up numerous times – including from MKs and Ministers like Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon – is cutting off electricity to Gaza,which Israel is still supplying. The Hamas missile, which hit one of the high tension wires that move power from Israel to Gaza, apparently made that a moot point, at least partially.
The Palestinian Authority currently owes the Israel Electric Company NIS 1.5 billion ($525 million) in unpaid bills for electricity. An examination of that debt by business daily Globes shows that the relative amount owed by Gaza was NIS 220 million ($62 million).
Last month, the IEC filed a petition with the High Court demanding to be allowed to shut off electricity to the Palestinian Authority until the debt was paid – or to allow the IEC to seize customs and aid payments collected on behalf of the PA to pay off its debt. That case is still pending.
Meanwhile, the IEC is still supplying electricity to Gaza, under orders from the government. The power is delivered to Gaza via 12 high-tension wires that are capable of delivering up to 120 megawatts of electricity. Experts say this is not enough for all the residents of Gaza, and in recent weeks residents have said that they have been getting electricity only 12 hours a day.
Along with the IEC's power, Gaza also receives electricity from a 140 megawatt generator which is under the control of the PA's Palestine Electric Company, which is run by Hamas operatives. The generator, which is currently operating, is maintained by a crew from German company Siemens. It had been damaged by IDF forces several times in the past, officials said.