Israel says deal reached to halt rolling blackouts in West Bank

Jerusalem - Israeli and Palestinian officials reached an agreement on Wednesday to stop several days of rolling blackouts in the occupied West Bank over what Israel says is some US$450 million (S$610 million) in debt.

Under the agreement, the Palestinian Authority would make an immediate payment of 20 million shekels (S$7.1 million) and engage in negotiations on the remainder, the state-run Israel Electricity Corporation said in a statement.

The company said it could reinstate the power cuts if a wider agreement is not reached within a week.

Palestinian officials did not immediately comment on the deal.

The Palestinian Authority is struggling financially and depends largely on foreign aid. Its economy has faltered in part due to Israeli restrictions in the West Bank.

It relies heavily on Israel for electricity supplies.

The IEC has since March 31 reduced power supply for hours at a time to Jericho, Bethlehem and Hebron, causing blackouts that Palestinian officials said threatened to cause further economic damage.