Fri, Oct 26, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Israel orders new sanctions on Gaza

AGENCIES , JERUSALEM

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak yesterday approved sanctions against civilians in the Gaza Strip, including electricity and fuel cuts in response to rocket attacks, his ministry said.

Israeli political sources said Barak's decision cleared the way for electricity cuts to begin immediately, although it was not immediately clear exactly when power would be reduced to the area, where 1.5 million Palestinians live.

Israel says the move was intended to increase pressure on Gaza's population in an effort to force Palestinian militants to stop rocket attacks against southern Israel that the Israeli army has struggled to curb.

The cuts will be temporary and, according to Israel, measured in proportion to militant fire.

The UN has told Israel it must not inflict collective punishment by denying Palestinians in the Gaza Strip vital supplies and services.

Palestinian leaders argue that, despite Israel's withdrawal of troops from Gaza in 2005, it remains an occupying force due its control of the frontiers and, as such, remains obliged under international law to ensure the welfare of the population.

According to Israeli and Palestinian officials, Gaza's population uses about 200 megawatts of electricity, of which 120 are provided directly from Israeli power lines, 17 are delivered from Egypt and 65 are produced at a local Palestinian plant.

Barak's approval was the final step needed before any reduction of electrical supplies could be implemented following an Israeli security Cabinet decision last month to declare the Gaza Strip an "enemy entity" and impose sanctions.

"Because this is an entity that is hostile to us there is no reason for us to supply them with electricity beyond the minimum required to prevent a crisis," Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio.

Barak's approval came one day before Israeli and Palestinian leaders were to meet again to try to narrow differences in preparation for a US-run conference.

In other developments, Israeli forces killed at least three gunmen on the Gaza border yesterday.

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