UN condemns Hamas for tunnel under schools in Gaza

"The decision of the occupation to reduce electricity to Gaza at the request of PA President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and unsafe", Hamas spokesman Abdel Latif al-Qanou said in an official statement.

Egypt reportedly offered Hamas greater freedom at the Gaza border and much-needed supplies of electricity in exchange the group agreeing to several security demands, Arab media reported on Tuesday.

Adding to those woes, Abbas's Palestinian Authority has taken steps many analysts say are created to pressure Hamas, including salary cuts for PA employees in Gaza and slashed electricity payments, further worsening an already severe power shortage.

According to the Israeli PM, as cited by the Jerusalem Post, "in various UNRWA institutions there is a lot of incitement against Israel, and therefore the existence of UNRWA - and unfortunately its work from time to time - perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem rather than solve it".

The Gaza Strip has been controlled by the Hamas Islamist movement since the 2007 conflict with the Fatah party, led by the head of the West Bank-based PA, Mahmoud Abbas.

In the past months, after the Palestinian Authority informed Israel that it would no longer pay for the power supply to the Strip, Gaza residents have been able to use electricity for just a few hours a day. While cutting funding to Gaza's already faltering economy could heap pressure on Hamas, it could galvanise Gazans and turn them against Fatah.

Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have since fought three wars with Israel.

Gaza's health ministry spokesman Dr Ashraf al-Qidra warned of "dangerous consequences for the sick and public health" if electricity is further reduced.

When that takes effect, the strip will be left with around two or three hours per day.

He added that Hamas "warns Israeli occupation authorities against the continuation of its policy of sieging Gaza and the results it bears". The prolonged sanctions game hasn't toppled Hamas, but our politicians refuse to listen to the military professionals. "Israelis paying Gaza's electricity bill is an impossible situation", Erdan added.

In addition, Farawaneh said that many families of the missing have not reached out to the ICRC or other human rights organizations for help, out of fear that Israel might retaliate against them for their missing relative's participation in resistance against Israeli forces.

The Israeli authorities have been looking for and uncovering Hamas' network of underground tunnels since the 2014 Gaza war during which it had been used to attack Israeli troops near the border with Gaza.

"We demand they desist from any activities or conduct that put beneficiaries and staff at risk and undermine the ability of United Nations staff to provide assistance to Palestine refugees in safety and security", the agency said, adding that the sanctity and neutrality of United Nations premises must be preserved at all times.

  • Jon Douglas