January 22, 2020 / 8:56 AM / in a month

Israeli electric company ends power cuts to West Bank after Palestinians pay debt

A view shows Palestinian houses as an Israeli power distribution plant is seen in the background in Hebron in the Israeli-occupied West Bank January 22, 2020. REUTERS/Mussa Qawasma

JERUSALEM/RAMALLAH (Reuters) - Israel’s state-owned electric company said on Wednesday it was ending power cuts to the occupied West Bank after the Palestinians’ main power distributor paid off a chunk of debt.

Israel Electric Corp(IEC) began sporadic, three-hour power cuts on Dec. 18 to press for payment of some $519 million owed by the Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO).

Palestinians in the West Bank rely on IEC for over 95 percent of their electricity supply. The cuts led to power outages in the cities of Ramallah and Bethlehem, affecting an estimated 130,000 people, according to JDECO.

IEC Chairman Yiftah Ron-Tal said the company was stopping the cuts after “JDECO transferred 740 million shekels ($214.21 million) of debt accumulated by the Palestinian Authority (PA) since 2016”.

JDECO buys electricity from IEC and then sells it to customers in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and where the PA has limited self-rule under interim peace accords.

JDECO signed a loan agreement with several Palestinian banks in order to pay off the debt it owed, said Mansour Nassar, the company’s assistant general manager for technical affairs.

The Palestinians have tried to reduce what they call their dependence on Israel for energy, in part through state- and private sector-funded solar energy projects and plans to build their own power plants.

Reporting by Rami Ayyub in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah; Editing by Peter Graff

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