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Israel reduces power supply in move to 'disengage' from Gaza
Rory McCarthy

· Olmert hitting back after Hamas rocket attacks
· Cuts break international law, rights groups say

Israel started cutting the amount of electricity it supplies to Gaza yesterday as part of a new economic campaign targeting Hamas that has drawn sharp criticism from human rights groups.

Power on one of 10 lines into the Palestinian territory was cut to hit back at militants firing rockets into Israel. Although the reduction amounts to less than 1% of the 124 megawatts that Israel sells to Gaza, further cuts are due in the weeks ahead as Israel seeks to "disengage" from Gaza.

There was little immediate sign it would halt the escalating conflict. Militants yesterday fired at least 20 makeshift rockets into Israel, damaging a factory.

The decision to cut electricity has been backed by Israel's high court, which this month turned down a challenge by Israeli and Palestinian human rights groups. Human Rights Watch said: "The cuts are seriously affecting civilians who have nothing to do with these armed groups and that violates a fundamental principle of the laws of war."

A US state department spokesman, Tom Casey, said: "We understand Israel's right to defend itself, but we do not think that actions should be taken that would infringe upon or worsen the humanitarian situation for the civilian population in Gaza."

Last month Israel halted fuel supplies into Gaza for several days and the strip's sole power plant shut down, leaving most of Gaza City, home to about 500,000 Palestinians, in darkness. It also badly affected sewage and water treatment plants......article conts (-)

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