Israel to reduce electricity supply to Gaza beginning Dec. 2
State responds to High Court petitions against measure, says all concerns were addressed and tactic, move intended to bring end to Qassam attacks. Human rights groups issue joint statement warning cuts will lead to humanitarian disaster, while Israel insists minor cuts won't damage health, sanitation systems in Gaza
Israel plans to reduce electricity supplies to the Gaza Strip beginning Dec. 2, according to a document submitted Thursday to the Israeli Supreme Court. The controversial tactic is intended to scale down the incessant rocket attacks emanating from the coastal
Human rights groups have denounced the policy, calling it collective punishment.
Several weeks ago Israel began cutting back on fuel supplies, but planned electricity reductions were delayed by an order from Israeli Attorney General Menachem Mazuz, who expressed concerns about humanitarian damage.
Rights groups petitioned the court to stop the cutbacks, and on Thursday, the state responded with a one-page document that stated that Israel ''will implement a certain reduction of electricity supply to the Gaza Strip beginning Dec. 2, 2007.''
The document added, ''In order to allow the Palestinian regime to prepare properly for the reduction, advance warning of about one week will be given before the cut.'' It said the attorney general's concerns had been addressed.
'There will only be minor cuts'
Israeli officials have said the utilities cutbacks were a way of persuading the Palestinian population to pressure Palestinian militants to stop their daily rocket barrages at southern Israel. But State officials have also said that the cutbacks were part of the final stages of Israel's disengagement from Gaza.
Two groups that press for Israel to respect Palestinian human rights, Gisha and Adala, issued a statement Thursday charging that the proposed electricity cuts would ''cause certain and serious harm to the health and well-being of Gaza residents.''
Sari Bashi, director of Gisha, said there was ''no physical way to reduce electricity supplies to Gaza without forcing power outages for
hospitals, clinics, water wells, sewage treatment plants and schools.''
Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for the Israeli military, said there would be no such harm. ''It won't be a powerful cut that will cause damage,'' he said. ''There will only be minor cuts.''
Gaza is dependent on Israel for all its fuel and about half its electricity.