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Israeli 'Economic Warfare' to Include Electricity Cuts in Gaza

Israel's limits on fuel for the power plant and the planned cuts in power will reduce electricity to Gaza by about another 20 percent, according to Sari Bashi, director of the Israeli human rights group Gisha, one of the organizations that brought the court case.

Israel has a "legitimate desire" to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, but has yet to show how it can achieve that by "crippling hospitals and water wells," Bashi said.

"Irregardless of the effect of the cuts, the cuts are illegal . . . because they are designed to punish civilians for the acts of militants," Bashi said.

The state attorney said Israel intended to meet at least "the minimum humanitarian criteria" in allowing in fuel for the power plant and automobiles, and diesel fuel.

"This is not against international law; it is not collective punishment," said Arye Mekel, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry.

The Supreme Court set no date for its ruling.

Israeli officials said after imposing the blockade that they would not allow shortages in Gaza to grow into a humanitarian crisis.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert made the same pledge to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday, said David Baker, an Olmert spokesman.

"Both leaders agreed to allow for continuation of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip," Baker said.

Hamas, an armed Islamic movement that does not recognize Israel's right to exist, took control of the Gaza Strip in June, routing Abbas's Fatah movement in days of fighting. Fatah was left to govern only the West Bank. Israel and Egypt have since all but sealed off the crossings that allow Gazans to travel and trade.

Palestinians overwhelmed Egyptian border guards late last week when the Egyptians used cattle prods and police dogs to try to corral them back into Gaza. After the crowds injured about 40 Egyptian officers, security forces pulled back Friday, allowing Gazans to flow in and out at will, Egypt said.

On Sunday, Egyptian officials tried again to regain control of the border and moved to choke off the flow of goods to Egyptian towns near Gaza -- hoping that with nothing left to buy, Gazans would return home. Egyptian authorities manned blockades near the Suez Canal on Saturday and Sunday.

"It seems they will put all of north Sinai under siege to get rid of the Palestinians," trucker Ali Abu Mahdi, 42, said late Saturday night. He was stranded at an Egyptian checkpoint with a truck full of flour and motorcycles he had hoped to sell to Gazans.

Special correspondent Nora Younis near the Suez Canal contributed to this report.

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