Tens of thousands of Palestinian West Bank households, medical centers, businesses, banks and educational facilities in Ramallah were without electrical power for three full hours on Sunday, December 15, after the Israeli Electricity Company (IEC), in a step supported by the Israeli’s government, cut power to main power supply points served by the Palestinian-owned Jerusalem District Electricity Company (JDECO).
The IEC step came to pressure JDECO to pay an outstanding debt for electricity bought to be used in JDECO’s concession areas that include, in addition to Ramallah, the occupied part of Jerusalem, the biblical city of Bethlehem, and the ancient city of Jericho.
The power cut policy began two months ago, with two-hour blackouts implemented in different parts of JDECO’s concession areas and at different times. This month the blackouts were increased to three hours, and IEC is threatening that these will be lengthened yet again if JDECO does not pay its debt estimated at around $500 million. JDECO accused IEC and the Israeli government of imposing a policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian people under its occupation, since innocent families and individuals are those most hurt by these power cuts. Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishment is a war crime.
JDECO is a joint-stock company 25% of whose shares were owned in 2016 by the municipalities of Jerusalem, Ramallah, Al-Bireh, Bethlehem, Beit Sahour, Beit Jala and Jericho, while the remaining 75% were owned by over 3,000 private stockholders. The board of directors consists of 18 members, 9 representing the seven municipalities and 9 the private shareholders. The company has four area branches: Jerusalem, Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jericho and employs about 500 workers.