The Israel Electric Corporation said it had reduced its supply to Bethlehem by 50 percent, days after doing so in the city of Jericho. The company said the internationally-backed Palestinian Authority owes it nearly $460 million.
“The company’s management stressed that it intends to take all available means to collect the debt and prevent it from growing further,” it said in a statement.
Israel provides electricity to the West Bank through several Palestinian distribution companies. Last year, it briefly cut off power to parts of the West Bank several times because of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority’s heavy debts. It has also deducted money from regular tax transfers to the Palestinians to help cover the debts.
Hisham Omari, director of one of the distributors, the Jerusalem District Electricity Co., said that Bethlehem lost power for four hours on Monday, and nearby villages were expected to be affected in the next two days.
“We tried as much as possible not to reach this situation, but clearly this is a political decision,” he said. “Today everybody in Bethlehem suffered,” including hotels and the main hospital, he said.