Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is pursuing a high-risk campaign in the Gaza Strip to squeeze his own people so hard that they might force the Islamist militant movement Hamas to surrender control of the isolated coastal enclave.

The 82-year-old leader’s Palestinian Authority, which runs the West Bank but has only limited sway in Gaza, has slashed salaries for its employees in the seaside territory, withheld permissions for medical patients to leave and, in its most dramatic step, cut payments for the electricity provided to Gaza by Israel.

Israel fears Hamas might lash out with rocket fire, and the World Bank worries the strip could collapse. The United Nations on Tuesday declared that a decade of Hamas rule, Palestinian infighting and crippling blockades by Israel and Egypt have made life for people in Gaza “more and more wretched” each day.

But Abbas has said he is prepared to go even further, threatening to impose sanctions against Hamas and freeze funds for its leaders “if they continue to rule Gaza and use the money of the Palestinian people to strengthen their hold on power,” according to an interview he gave to Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.


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