Israel has agreed to cut down its electricity supply in the Gaza Strip to less than four hours a day, aiding Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in his attempt to undermine militant group Hamas, which has controlled the region for almost a decade.
Over 80% of Gaza's electricity supply is currently provided by Israel and human rights activists warn that the latest cuts could trigger a humanitarian crisis for the two million Palestinians living there. Israeli generals have said that the power cuts could lead to a military escalation between Hamas and Israel.
After repeated failed reconciliation attempts, Abbas has tried to squeeze Hamas financially in recent months, hoping to force it to cede control of Gaza, which the Islamic militant group has ruled for the last decade. He slashed salaries of his employees there, stopped payments for ex-prisoners and reinstated taxes on the power plant's fuel.
In April, Abbas' Palestinian Authority announced that it was cutting its payments for electricity in Gaza by $12 million (£9.4 million) a month.
The electricity supply in Gaza fell from 12 hours to just four earlier this year after Abbas cut funding for the territory's only power plant. The new cuts would reduce the supply to between two and three hours a day.
The Israeli government said on Sunday (11 June) that it would scale back its power supply in Gaza to at least 40%, despite warnings from Hamas that the power cuts would lead to an "explosion" in the Palestinian enclave.
A spokesperson for the militant group, Abdel Latif Al-Qanua, said that Israel's decision to reduce the power supply was "catastrophic and dangerous" and would "accelerate the deterioration and explode the situation in the strip", warning that both Israel and the Palestinian Authority would "bear the consequences."
Human Rights Watch Israel and Palestine Director, Sari Bashi, told IBTimes UK that the cuts would further deteriorate an "already precarious situation" by leaving patients without access to medical treatment and obstructing business and farming in the region.
"Waste treatment plants have reverted to dumping raw sewage into the sea, where children swim and fishermen fish. Hospitals have generators, but they are prone to malfunction, and when they do, pediatric staff pump oxygen manually into the lungs of sick children, praying for a return of power," Bashi said.
On Monday (12 June), Gaza's health ministry said that the medical sector is already struggling to provide fuel for the 87 generators that supply electricity to hospitals in the strip during blackout hours.
Bashi said that Israel had a responsibility to continue to supply power to Gaza. "With control comes responsibility," she said. "Because Israel continues to exercise significant control over life in Gaza, including its ability to develop the energy sector, it is obligated to take steps to continually improve the delivery of electricity."