‘Tipping point’ seen over US presence at Qatar air base

In this Sept. 11, 2017 photo released by Qatar News Agency, the Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, center front, poses for a photo with Emiri Air Force at al-Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar. (QNA via AP)
Updated 15 September 2017
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‘Tipping point’ seen over US presence at Qatar air base

LONDON: The US is likely to pull its forces from the Al-Udeid air base in Qatar should Doha not change its ways, American defense experts told a London conference Thursday.
The base is home to more than 10,000 US service members, but has entered the spotlight amid the diplomatic row between Qatar and some of its neighbors over Doha’s alleged support for terror groups.
Gen. Chuck Wald, former deputy commander of the US European Command, said Qatar’s alleged behavior meant a “tipping point” was approaching.
“It would be hugely detrimental for Qatar to continue down the path that they’re going right now,” he said.
“I think the United States at some point is going to have enough of it and say, ‘we’re leaving’.”
Wald said that the US could “very easily” move from Al-Udeid air base to Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Jordan.
“Militarily it’s doable … The US military can move around very easily, in a big way,” he said.
Dov Zakheim, a former US Department of Defense official under the administration of George W. Bush — who said he helped negotiate the expansion of Al-Udeid — said Qatar presents “a huge dilemma” to the US.
“Qatar for a long long time has tried to punch very much above its weight: This idea that they’ll talk to everybody and anybody,” he said. “The trouble with trying to do that, is that when you’re dealing with Iran you’re playing with fire.”
Zakheim said that Qatar’s alleged support for Iran, which some claim undermines regional stability, could prompt the US to leave the base.
“There is nothing that guarantees that we will permanently stay in Al-Udeid,” he said. “If Qatar continues to operate at cross purposes with its neighbors and with us, then at some point … we might find somewhere else.”
The experts were addressing the “Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference” held in London on Thursday. The event aimed to give voice to Qatari opposition members amid the diplomatic dispute that Doha is embroiled in.
Opposition member Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for the Qatar National Democratic Party and organizer of the conference, was critical of Doha’s motives regarding the Al-Udeid air base.
“I think that the current Qatari regime uses the American base as the cover to fund terrorism and extremist acts,” he said.


Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

Updated 19 April 2018
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Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

  • At least 33 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the ‘Great March of Return’ began last month
  • Gaza suffers from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces

GAZA: A tent consisting of nine beds and some basic medical equipment is all that will serve as a field hospital in the Zeitoun area of Gaza when Palestinians gather at the Israeli border to take part in a mass protest against the occupation on Friday.

Eleven doctors and 12 nurses work at the facility during what has become a weekly ritual of defiance and bloodshed for the people of this besieged coastal enclave. With access to only rudimentary supplies, the staff must deal with injuries caused by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

When Arab News visited the hospital southeast of Gaza City last week the sound of ambulances rushing back and forth was almost non-stop as the medics worked tirelessly amid the chaos. But no one expects any respite in the month ahead, with the protesters due to return every Friday until mid-May.

“In one hour we have received more than 30 injuries, about 26 of which are to the lower limbs and from live bullets,” said Khalil Siam, a doctor who works at the hospital from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Gaza’s “Great March of Return” began on March 30, when tens of thousands of protesters traveled in buses from across the strip to five locations along the Israeli border. 

The demonstration was timed to coincide with “Land Day,” an annual event when Palestinians remember the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976. It is due to continue until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe — the creation of
Israel.

On the first day of the protest at least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were injured as Israeli troops opened fire on the huge crowds, causing the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for “an independent and transparent investigation.”

Then on April 6 several more Palestinians were killed as protesters threw stones and set fire to piles of tires at the border, sending thick clouds of black smoke spiralling into the air.

A handful of field hospitals run by both volunteers and government doctors have been set up to deal with the constant stream of casualties each Friday, but they struggle to cope. Protesters critically wounded in the upper part of the body are rushed straight to Gaza’s main hospitals but staff here also find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the bloodshed.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 33 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 have been injured between the start of the protests last month and April 14. Thirteen of the casualties have required amputations.

Even before the demonstrations began, Gaza suffered from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces and ongoing divisions between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Arab News that all hospitals were facing a situation of “severe attrition.”

“A large number of drugs and medical items have been drained from emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units due to the large number of casualties,” he said.

The Israeli government initially refused to allow injured protesters to be moved to the occupied West Bank until Israel’s High Court ruled unanimously on Monday that Yousef Al-Karnaz, a 19-year-old Palestinian, should be allowed to receive urgent medical care in Ramallah.

Al-Karnaz was shot and wounded by Israeli troops on March 30 but was not allowed to leave the strip. As a result, his left leg was amputated.

Ismail Al-Jadbah, director of the vascular department at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, told Arab News that the strip had enough doctors to cope with the casualties but lacked the necessary resources to give them the best possible care.

“In addition to a shortage of medicine, the large number of injured has put a great burden on us. Treating injuries in the right way, and in the right time, is very difficult,” he said.