Health services in Gaza crippled by fuel shortage
Health services in Gaza crippled by fuel shortage
Officials in the coastal enclave have portrayed the move as a last ditch attempt to avert a “severe crisis” from crippling Gaza’s health system eleven years after Israel imposed a devastating land, air and sea blockade on the area.
But the blackout has also underlined continued divisions between rival Palestinian factions who blame each other for a funding gap of more than $290,000 in the health service’s budget. While Hamas claims not to have received the money, the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank insists it has been allocated but is not being spent properly.
Dr. Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, warned that the fuel shortage was expected to get significantly worse if the problems continued.
“We are concerned that more [generators] will stop every day because there is no horizon to this severe crisis,” he said.
Approximately 1.9 million people, including 1.3 million refugees, are estimated to live in Gaza and roughly 80 percent of the population is dependent on international assistance, according to the UN.
While the main hospitals in the area are still functioning, the Ministry of Health decided on Monday to shut down the electricity generators supplying six health centers — bringing to 19 the total number of hospitals and clinics now without power as a result of “severe austerity measures.”
Gaza remains under the control of Hamas, which took power in 2007 after winning legislative elections a year earlier. Its victory led to a bitter dispute with Fatah that only ended last autumn, when the two sides agreed to a reconciliation deal after talks brokered by Egypt.
But the agreement has yet to be fully implemented and the Palestinian Minister of Health, Dr. Jawad Awad, has accused Hamas of contributing to the crisis in Gaza by mismanaging its resources. Based in the occupied West Bank, he told state radio that his ministry had fulfilled its funding obligations — a claim rejected by Al-Qidra.
Blackouts and load-shedding have long been common in Gaza, with electricity often limited to just a few hours every day for the general population.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza says it needs 40,000 liters of diesel every month in order for its hospitals and clinics to receive 12 hours of electricity per day. It currently appears to be far short of this target.
Gaza is already in the grip of a severe economic crisis that has decimated the private sector. Last month businesses throughout the area staged a mass strike in protest against conditions and announced they would stop receiving goods through the remaining commercial border crossing to Israel at Kerem Shalom.
Even the Israeli president, Reuven Rivlin, has warned that Gaza’s infrastructure is on the verge of total collapse.
Maher Al-Tabaa, director of public relations at the Chamber of Commerce in Gaza, described the economic situation as a “clinical death.”
“We seek to send a message to all parties — from the factions, the government, international organizations and the international community that we cannot live in Gaza if the situation continues as it is,” he told the Arab News.
Israeli forces wound 77 Palestinians at protest near Gaza Strip border
- Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948
GAZA: Israeli soldiers shot and wounded 77 Palestinians during protests near the Gaza Strip border on Friday, the enclave’s Health Ministry said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said about 10,000 demonstrators massed at the border and that some threw burning tires, grenades and explosive devices at the troops across the fence. About 30 Palestinians suffered tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said.
But the protest was relatively small — some of the previous gatherings included about 30,000 people, a sign that tensions that have built up in the past few days may be easing.
On Thursday, Israel had ramped up armored forces along the Gaza border, a day after a rocket fired from the enclave destroyed a home in southern Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, vowed “very strong action” if attacks continued. A Palestinian official said Egyptian security officials had held separate meetings in the past few days with Israeli counterparts and with leaders of the Palestinian Hamas group that rules Gaza in an effort to prevent an escalation in violence.
Palestinians have been protesting along the border since March 30, demanding an end to Israel’s blockade of the territory and the right to return to lands that Palestinians fled or were driven from upon Israel’s founding in 1948. About 200 Gazans have been killed by Israeli troops since the protests started, according to Palestinian Health Ministry figures. Pale stinians have launched incendiary balloons and kites into Israel and on occasion breached the Israeli frontier fence. More than 2 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal enclave. Israel pulled troops and settlers from Gaza in 2005 but maintains tight control of its land and sea borders.
Egypt also restricts movement in and out of Gaza on its border. Nickolay Mladenov, the UN’s Mideast peace envoy, earlier urged Israel and the Palestinians to exercise restraint ahead of the protests. Mosque loudspeakers in the Palestinian enclave urged Gazans to attend Friday’s demonstrations, despite statements by Gaza’s leaders that Hamas seeks to rein in the protests. “In light of today’s planned Gaza march, I urge all to exercise restraint, to proceed in a peaceful manner, and to avoid escalation,” Nickolay Mladenov said in a statement. “The UN is working with Egypt and its partners to avoid violence, address all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
Egyptian intelligence officials met with Hamas and Israeli officials on Thursday in efforts to broker a cease-fire and ease months of deadly border protests. Egypt and the UN have attempted to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas for weeks in a bid to ease tensions in the beleaguered Gaza Strip.
Hamas has organized weekly protests since March that seek, in part, to secure an easing of the Egyptian-Israeli blockade of the Palestinian enclave imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza from the Palestinian Authority in 2007 in an armed coup.
At least 156 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire at the protests, and an Israeli solider was killed by a Palestinian sniper.
The protests have intensified in recent weeks as Egyptian and UN cease-fire negotiations have faltered, and cross-border violence earlier this week has brought tensions to a simmer.
On Wednesday, a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip destroyed a house in the Israeli city of Beersheba in the worst bout of violence in recent weeks. Israel retaliated with airstrikes and has beefed up its military forces along the border. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Security Cabinet resolved to retaliate more severely to cross-border attacks, but has thus far refrained from further action, suggesting it was giving the Egyptians a chance to restore calm.