Gaza fears a new war as government health facilities shut down

16 February 2018

XINHUA/PA

A Palestinian mother holds her child in Al-Rantisi Cancer Hospital in Gaza City, last week. The hospital provides medical treatment for children suffering from cancer in Gaza strip, but medical supplies, equipment, and electricity are in short supply

A Palestinian mother holds her child in Al-Rantisi Cancer Hospital in Gaza City, last week. The hospital provides medical treatment for children suffe...

“DESPERATION and hopelessness” prevail in Gaza, as the Israeli blockade prevents access to health care, and fears grow of a new war, a Christian charity has warned.

The programmes director of Embrace the Middle East, Jamie Eyre, said that almost all government health facilities had had to shut down owing to crippling power cuts and severe shortages of fuel to run back-up generators.

Everyone he spoke to said that they feared that a new conflict between either squabbling Palestinian factions, or Hamas and Israel, would break out soon.

“There’s a real sense of desperation and hopelessness when you talk to people,” Mr Eyre said on Tuesday, shortly after returning to the UK. “Everybody is talking about war. . . They’re not talking about ‘if’, they’re talking about ‘when’. It’s hard to gauge when that will happen, but there is certainly a palpable fear about that. There is no obvious solution.”

Mr Eyre was in Gaza to visit several clinics and projects funded by Embrace the Middle East and run by local Christian charities. “We heard last week that 16 government clinics have shut because their supplies are at minimal levels, and they said they couldn’t run essential services,” Mr Eyre said. Both the Al Ahli Arab Hospital — run by the diocese of Jerusalem — and mother-and-baby units run by the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) have continued to function, thanks to donations from Britain.

“We heard last week that 16 government clinics have shut because their supplies are at minimal levels, and they said they couldn’t run essential services,” Mr Eyre said.

“The services I saw were very high quality,” he said, “and I think it’s really encouraging that these small Christian communities are able to keep running, when some of the government clinics are struggling.”

Only about 1000 Christians remain in Gaza, and the majority of people treated by the hospitals they run are Muslims. But, Mr Eyre said, those he met had no intention of leaving the territory. “They see it as part of their social witness. People do have the opportunity to go, but the Christians we spoke to want to stay, and make their presence felt. It’s their service to the community.”

A coalition of human-rights groups reported on Tuesday that Israel was approving a record low number of medical permits to allow Palestinians to leave Gaza for treatment. Fifty-four per cent of applications were approved in 2017: the lowest such figure since the World Health Organisation began counting, in 2008. Fifty-four Palestinians died last year after they were denied a permit, or approval was delayed.

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