Lieberman: Abbas seeks to start new Israeli-Hamas war

Israeli defence minister says cutting payments for electricity in Gaza aims at dragging Hamas into conflict with Israel.

Gaza electricity crisis
Palestinians living in Gaza will now only receive two to four hours of electricity a day [Thomas Coex/AFP]

Israel’s defence minister Avigdor Lieberman has accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of trying to start a fresh conflict between Tel Aviv and the Palestinian movement Hamas through the Gaza electricity crisis.

Lieberman said on Thursday that Abbas, who is also the head of the secular Fatah movement that rules the occupied West Bank, was trying to increase tensions by cutting payments for electricity and other services in Gaza.

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“His intention is actually to continue cuts and in a few months to stop paying for fuel, medicines, salaries and many other things,” Lieberman told a security conference near Tel Aviv on Thursday.

“In my opinion, the strategy is to hurt Hamas and also to drag Hamas into a conflict with Israel.”

Israel “has no intention to go to war – not in the north, nor in the south,” he added.

Since 2006, the PA has been paying Israel 40 million shekels ($12m) a month for electricity to be delivered to Gaza, which is deducted from tax revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the PA.

Israel’s power plant, which supplies 30 percent of the total electricity needed in the Strip, will scale back to at least 40 percent.

Gaza’s sole power plant shut down in April after it ran out of fuel. Prior to its shutdown, the PA removed a tax exemption on diesel fuel, doubling the price as a result.

The enclave’s two million people will now only receive two to four hours of electricity instead of the previous six to eight hours.

READ MORE: Gaza power cuts – When fuel runs out, ‘babies will die’

A senior official in the Fatah-led government said last month that the aim behind the PA’s move was to “dry up Hamas’ financial resources”.

Gaza is beset with humanitarian crises as a result of a decade-old Israeli and Egyptian blockade combined with the consequences of three Israeli wars.

In 2015, the UN released a report warning that the besieged enclave will become uninhabitable by 2020.

More recently, the International Committee of the Red Cross warned of “a systemic collapse of an already battered infrastructure and economy”.

Lieberman also spoke about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying a solution can only come as part of “a full regional agreement with all moderate Sunni states, including Saudi Arabia.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies