JERUSALEM, Israel – Hamas threatened a violent response if Israel agrees to cut power to the Gaza Strip, as the ongoing power struggle continues between the Gaza-based Palestinian terror group and its Ramallah-based rival, Fatah.
Ten years ago this week, a bloody military coup was taking place in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Authority security forces affiliated with the PLO's Fatah movement fled for their lives.
Eyewitnesses shared horrific testimonies of fathers shot dead in front of their wives and children, and Fatah members, hands tied behind their backs, were thrown off the roofs of high-rise buildings.
After five days, Hamas declared sovereignty over the Gaza Strip, ending a three-month unity government and the short-lived premiership of then Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh.
Ten years and three wars later, not much has changed.
Late last week, the Palestinian Authority announced a 35 percent cutback in its monthly electricity payments for Gaza, from 40 to 25 million shekels. Israel provides 125 megawatts of electricity, about 30 percent of its power needs.
In April, Egypt offered to resume power supplies to the Gaza Strip if Hamas met certain security demands, the London-based Ashraq al-Awsat newspaper reported. They were not new demands, but they were presented to Haniyeh's replacement, Yahya Sinwar.
Among the conditions are that Hamas end weapons smuggling to the Sinai Peninsula and crack down on security along the border between Gaza and Egypt.
Hamas, meanwhile, decried the P.A.'s decision to reduce payments and Israel's refusal to pick up the bill.
The group's spokesman, Abdel Latif al-Qanou, called the move "catastrophic and dangerous."
"The Israeli occupation's decision to reduce electricity to the Strip at the behest of P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas is catastrophic and dangerous," al-Qanou said in a statement. "This virtually speeds up the deterioration and explosion of the situation in the Gaza Strip."
Many attribute the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas to exacerbating the humanitarian crises in the Gaza Strip. Others say Hamas is responsible for the deterioration there.
Since taking control of Gaza in June 2007, Hamas has worked to bring residents under Sharia (Islamic) law. There are reports from time to time that many Gazans long for an end to Hamas rule.
Since taking office in July 2014, Egyptian President Fattah Abdel el-Sisi has worked to reduce weapons smuggling by Hamas to terror cells embedded in the vast Sinai Desert. During Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Israeli airstrikes successfully destroyed many smuggling tunnels. Egyptian security forces also uncovered and destroyed some of the tunnels dug under the border with Gaza. It has also kept the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt closed for the most part.
Hamas, the Palestinian offshoot of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, is on the U.S. State Department's list of terror organizations. It has never recognized Israel's right to exist and vows it never will.