The Palestinian Authority will no longer pay for the electricity Israel supplies to Gaza, Israeli officials said, further deepening the besieged enclaves energy crisis.
The Palestinian Authority has informed [us] it will immediately stop paying for the electricity that Israel supplies to Gaza through 10 power lines that carry 125 megawatts, or some 30 per cent of Gaza's electrical needs
said a statement from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Israel's military arm which oversees Israeli policies in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
A Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, called the decision to halt the payments "a grave escalation and an act of madness".
"The Gaza Strip will live without electricity in the coming days and the army will follow how Hamas will deal with the crisis," an unnamed officer was quoted as saying by Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth.
A senior UN official expressed concern about the deteriorating energy situation in Gaza and called for swift action by Israeli and Palestinian Authorities and the international community to ensure basic services keep running.
Gaza's sole power plant ceased activity after it used up all the Turkish and Qatari fuel which it had been provided with.
Electricity lines which serve the Gaza Strip from Egypt often stop working and are unreliable.
With power outages at 20 hours a day and emergency fuel supplies running out, basic services are grinding to a halt
Robert Piper, the UN coordinator for humanitarian aide and development activities, said in a statement.
Hospitals have already been forced to reduce their services as a result of the electricity crisis.
Israel charges the PA 40 million shekels ($11 million) a month for the electricity, deducting the sum from the transfers of Palestinian tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the Authority.
Israeli sources said Gaza needs 400 megawatts of power to ensure full 24-hour supply to its residents.