Israel brands Gaza "enemy entity", orders sanctions

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JERUSALEM, Sep 19 (Reuters) Israel's security cabinet today declared the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip an ''enemy entity'', opening the way for cuts in fuel and other vital supplies to the territory, an Israeli political source said.

The move was a response to cross-border rocket fire by Palestinian militants in Gaza, a coastal territory that Israeli troops and settlers quit in 2005 after 38 years of occupation but which remains largely reliant on the Jewish state for utilities and humanitarian aid imports.

An Israeli political source said that as a result of the security cabinet's decision, Israel will limit supplies of fuel to Gaza and curb some commercial exports.

Electricity supplies will not be affected for now, the source said.

By formally defining the Gaza Strip as an enemy entity, Israel could argue that it cannot be bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply power to the its population of 1.5 million.

Palestinians contend the Gaza Strip is still under Israeli occupation because Israel controls its borders, air space and coastal waters.

REUTERS SG KN1629

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