YERUSHALAYIM - After Hamas threatened that Israel’s move to cut off or reduce electricity to the Gaza Strip was “dangerous,” Egypt has reportedly offered to step in and provide the power that Israel and the Palestinian Authority will not – on condition that the terror group mend its ways.
A report in the London-based Al Sharq-Al Awsat newspaper Tuesday quoted Palestinian officials as saying that Cairo made the offer to Hamas conditionally. In order to get the electricity, Hamas will have to surrender 17 wanted terrorists who committed various security offenses in Egypt – including attacking Egyptian security officers – and shut down its network of weapons smuggling tunnels to and from Sinai. Besides electricity, Egypt will supply Gazans with more freedom of movement, increasing the number of permits issued to Gazans to exit the Strip.
According to the officials, Egypt believes that Hamas’s current vulnerabilities – it’s been banned by Qatar, one of its chief backers, and condemned by Saudi Arabia, the most influential Arab country in the Middle East – allow it for the first time to influence the terror group. Egypt’s objective is neutralize Hamas as it struggles to get control of Sinai, which is rife with pockets of Islamist rebel groups, from al-Qaida to IS to home-grown organizations that seek to overthrow the government of Egyptian leader A-Sisi.
The Cabinet voted Sunday to cut electricity to Gaza, after the Palestinian Authority declared last week that it would no longer pay Gaza’s electricity bill.
The IDF recommended going along with the plan in order to strengthen the position of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in his dispute with Hamas. PA officials declared last week that they were tired of sharing the blame for Hamas’ terror activities, as the humanitarian aid transferred to Gaza – including money to pay for basic services – is used to build terror tunnels and pay terrorists.
Channel Two quoted PA officials as saying the ongoing terror activities of Hamas is damaging their standing with the new administration in Washington, and that they would no longer pay for those activities.
In response, Hamas threatened to rain terror on the head of Israelis. In a statement, a Hamas spokesperson said that “those who are responsible for this decision – both the Israeli enemy that blockades Gaza, and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in his immoral role aiding the enemy – will pay. This is a dangerous decision that will lead to an explosion.”
Under current arrangements, Israel supplies power to Gaza, with the PA billing Gaza residents and transferring the payment to the Israel Electric Corporation. However, the payments account only for a portion of the total bill; the rest is paid by the PA out of money it receives from international donors specifically for the humanitarian needs of Gaza.