The Israeli government cut electricity to Gaza Sunday night at the request of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which seeks to apply pressure on Hamas, its political rival. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is from ruling Fatah party, which is an arch-rival of Hamas.
Hamas has controlled Gaza strip for the last decade since violently seizing control in 2007. A PA spokesman stated PA plans to serve the people in Gaza and called Hamas to turn over all the responsibilities of government in that region back to PA.
For the last decade, due to the internal rivalry, Palestine has not had a congressional or presidential election. PA is trying to exert pressure on Hamas by refusing to pay their electricity bill.
Egypt is taking advantage of the opportunity and has offered Hamas relief in the electricity crisis in exchange for returning 17 wanted men charged by Egypt on terrorism, halting smuggle of weapons in Sinai, and information on militants’ activities in Gaza that use underground tunnels.
Gaza has already had chronic power shortages with 12 hours a day supply for residences. PA informed Israel in April that it would only pay $25 million of the $40 million of monthly electricity bill for Gaza.
Israel provides about 30% of Gaza’s electricity. Currently, Gaza has power for about four to six hours. Business, household water supply, and medical facilities are all impacted with this crisis. The World Bank has called this a humanitarian disaster.
It is not clear how Egypt would be able to assist Gaza with its power crisis. Under best conditions, Egypt can provide 6% of electricity to Gaza for a full day of usage. However, according to Israel Defense Forces, Egypt has had malfunctions with its power equipment, which have caused it incapable of providing power to Gaza lately.
President Netanyahu distanced Israel from the power crisis calling it an internal dispute between Hamas and PA where Hamas and PA disagree as to who should pay the electricity bill for Gaza. Netanyahu also indicated that the Israelis do not intend to escalate with Hamas.
Since 2013, when Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government under President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown, relations between Egypt and Hamas have deteriorated. The Muslim Brotherhood is parent organization to Hamas, and the Egyptian government holds Hamas responsible for supporting Muslim Brotherhood–backed terror attacks in the country.
Egypt does not trust Hamas, but Hamas attempted to soften Egyptian anger at Hamas by claiming to distance themselves from with Muslim Brotherhood focusing on their role as a Palestinian movement intent on fighting only Israel.
The current Gulf crisis has made the situation more difficult for Hamas. Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and other Gulf states have cut ties with Qatar accusing it of funding terrorist organizations. Qatar was a source of political and financial funding for Hamas.
Will Hamas survive the political, social, and financial squeeze that is currently faced? It appears that Hamas is being cornered from different directions, and it’s losing allies in the region. The PA is working aggressively against it by undermining its presence in Gaza strip. Israel’s decision in cutting Gaza’s power can potentially raise the dissatisfaction among Palestinians against Hamas.
Interestingly, Aljazeera, a Qatar state controlled media organization known for its favorable reporting of various terrorist groups including Hamas questioned whether or not Hamas will be able to face this new storm.
Qatar is under pressure to distance itself from Hamas, and its own terror ties are currently the focus of the international community. Furthermore, Hamas is trying to publicly distinguish itself from Muslim Brotherhood that is the backbone of its financial, political, and militia support. Despite their differences in Syria, the recent developments may bring Hamas and Iran back in closer alliance as they both are being alienated by Arab nations. This strategy may allow Hamas to survive as it goes through the choppy waters of isolation in the Middle East.