Gaza hospital closes as UNRWA protests US fund cuts
Hamas orders hospital in northern Gaza to halt operations, claiming it has run out of diesel fuel required for generators needed amid daily power outages; PA rejects claims, saying funds already transferred for purchase of more diesel to keep generators going; UNRWA workers and Gaza residents march in protest against US decision to slash funds.
With the closure of the hospital in Beit Hanoun, Hamas officials say that the strike will deprive some 60,000 patients in the northern sector of the strip without medical care.
The decision was taken after Hamas announced that diesel fuel in the hospital for operating its generators had run out.
Last week, the Palestinian health minister ordered that one million shekels be allocated for the purchase of diesel for all Gaza hospitals.
However, according to Hamas, the figure will only suffice for the operation of generators for ten days.
The Health Ministry in Ramallah, however, rejected the claims by Gaza officials, citing the fact that the funds were transferred to the strip just three days ago and should therefore still be enough for the purchase of more diesel fuel.
According to Hamas, over the course of the last few days, steps had been taken which were intended to reduce the use of diesel, including switching to the operation of smaller generators that consume a smaller quantity of diesel fuel.
The need for operating generators in hospitals stems from the daily electrical power outages in the strip.
However, it remains unclear for the time being whether the decision was taken due to a genuine crisis or a ploy orchestrated by Hamas to exert greater pressure on the Palestinian unity government in Ramallah and the international community.
The US’s recent decision to withhold millions of dollar in aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has also precipitated mass demonstrations in the streets of Gaza.
Schools, clinics and food distribution centres in the Gaza Strip were closed on Monday due to a one-day strike by the 13,000 UNRWA employees.
Those joining Monday's strike said the US funding cut would worsen hardship in the Gaza Strip, and they marched to the UN headquarters in Gaza City waving Palestinian flags and brandishing banners that read "Dignity is priceless".
UNRWA spokesman Abu Hasna said the agency, which has launched an international appeal for funds, had enough money for three months of operations.
"We appreciate the fear and concern of employees for their jobs and for possible cuts in services," he said.
Speaking during the protest, the chairman for UNRWA in Gaza promised that the highest levels of anger would be demonstrated as a result of the decision.
He also said that UNRWA staff would not agree to the acceptance of a plan that would harm the agency’s operations for refugees.
“We will thwart this just as others before us thwarted in the last 70 years a plan intended to bring about the closure of UNRWA,” he said.
While the strike was planned to take place for only one day, others are expected throughout Gaza and the West Bank.
Also expressing their opposition to the American decision, a number of European nations announced that they would contribute money to UNRWA in a bid to compensate for the losses incurred.