The Israel Electric Corporation (ICE) declared yesterday that it would be cutting power to parts of the occupied West Bank, citing "outstanding payments amounting to nearly $483 million", reported AFP.
Claiming it was owed "1.7 billion shekels in debts from the main Palestinian power distributor for the West Bank, which is based in East Jerusalem", the ICE said that from today, the company "will reduce the current in some areas of the West Bank".
The Palestinian Authority (PA) denounced the move as "blackmail" by Israeli occupation authorities.
"The [Israeli] occupation government is seeking, through these sanctions and the exploitation of electricity debts, to put pressure on the Palestinian government to accept an agreement that does not respect the rights of the Palestinians," said Palestinian energy authority head Zafer Melhem.
As reported by AFP, the PA said "in the past two months it has repaid nearly $100 million in debts accumulated by the east Jerusalem-based distributor of Palestinian municipalities".
The PA also warned that the power cuts could affect hospitals and medical facilities.
According to Israeli public broadcaster Kan, "the IEC, fearing an escalation of violence, will cut power gradually and only in certain areas, stepping up the penalties gradually if the debts remain unpaid."
Last week, Palestinian news agency Wafa reported, Palestinian-owned Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO) said IEC had informed it of cuts to electricity in the districts of Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho.
The PA plans to establish "a first-of-its-kind power plant" that "is expected to be completed in 2023" and will cover 40 per cent of the West Bank's electricity needs.