Barak approves limiting Israel's Gaza power supply
Defense minister gives green light to reduce power supplies to Strip in response to Palestinian rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled territory. Security sources explain decision not part of punishment measures, but rather implementation of Israel's gradual disengagement from Gaza following Hamas' takeover of Strip
Shortly after the decision was made, a Qassam rocket landed near the southern town of Sderot.
Israeli political sources said Barak's decision cleared the way for electricity cuts to begin immediately, although it was not immediately clear exactly when power would be reduced to the area, where 1.5 million Palestinians live.
Security sources explained that the decision was not part of punishment measures, but rather an implementation of Israel's gradual disengagement from Gaza following Hamas' takeover of the Strip.
As part of this decision, Israel does not plan to cut the power supply following in response to each rocket fired at Israel, but it was decided to gradually reduce the Strip's dependency on Israel in order for the electricity supplied to be used by the Palestinian population rather than for terror purposes.
The transfer of goods into the Gaza Strip will also be reduced in a bit to pressure the Hamas government.
The United Nations has told Israel it must not inflict collective punishment by denying Palestinians in the Gaza Strip vital supplies and services.
Palestinian leaders argue that, despite Israel's withdrawal of troops from Gaza in 2005, it remains an occupying force due its control of the frontiers and, as such, remains obliged under international law to ensure the welfare of the population.
According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Gaza's population uses about 200 megawatts of electricity, of which 120 are provided directly from Israeli power lines, 17 are delivered from Egypt, and 65 are produced at a local Palestinian plant.
Barak's approval was the final step needed before any reduction of electrical supplies could be implemented following an Israeli security cabinet decision last month to declare the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" and impose sanctions.
Palestinian gunmen frequently fire short-range rockets into southern Israel from the Gaza Strip - attacks Israeli incursions and air strikes have failed to stop. Israeli forces killed at least two gunmen on the Gaza border on Thursday.
"Because this is an entity that is hostile to us there is no reason for us to supply them with electricity beyond the minimum required to prevent a crisis," Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.
Barak gave his approval a day before Israeli and Palestinian leaders planned to meet again to try to narrow differences in preparation for a US-run conference on Palestinian statehood.
Shmulik Hadad contributed to this report