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ICRC: 'Crisis is looming' in Gaza amid ongoing fuel and power shortages

May 16, 2017 3:21 P.M. (Updated: May 16, 2017 4:50 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) released a statement on Monday, warning of the “critical” situation in Gaza, caused by the severe power and fuel shortages that have thrown the besieged coastal enclave into political and economic crisis in recent months.

The ICRC said a “crisis is looming,” with the lack of power and fuel “endangering essential services including healthcare, wastewater treatment and water provision.”

"Currently, people in Gaza only have power for six hours a day, in most cases. All aspects of life in Gaza have been affected. As a result, a systemic collapse of an already battered infrastructure and economy is impending," the statement said.

Earlier this month, the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released a report in the wake of the Gaza power plant’s shutdown, highlighting that hospitals were working at minimal capacity, and wastewater plants were operating on shortened treatment cycles, “decreasing the quality of sewage routinely discharged into the sea and increasing pollution levels,” as well as the risk for flooding in heavily populated areas.

As summer begins, additional health risks could emerge, OCHA added, saying that if fuel supplies continue to dwindle, some hospitals are expected to close in order to preserve fuel for more central hospitals serving the largest urban populations, which would “immediately affect pregnant women, elderly and those with chronic illness.”

Last week, Gaza’s Ministry of Health reported that the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority (PA) was halting shipments of baby formula and medicines to hospitals in the Hamas-controlled enclave, a claim that the PA completely denied.

Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qidra said at the time that the move was a “political decision," referring to heightened conflicts between Hamas and Fatah.

Though the PA vehemently denied the claims, Israeli daily Haaretz reported last month that PA authorities had planned to slash Gaza’s health budget this month as “punishment” of the Hamas government for “turning down Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiatives to restore PA control in the Strip.”

Tensions in Gaza have been on the rise since the cutting of PA salaries to their Gaza-based civil employees, which, coupled with a devastating electricity crisis that Hamas has blamed on the PA for refusing to alleviate taxes levied on electricity from the West Bank, has severely exacerbated the long-running conflict.

While Hamas and the PA have continually blamed each other for the crisis in Gaza, Israeli rights group B’Tselem discussed the role of the Israeli government in causing the difficult conditions for sick patients in Gaza in a 2016 report, as Israeli forces have imposed restrictions on medicines entering the besieged territory and have prevented doctors in Gaza from traveling outside the enclave to receive additional training to meet the needs of Gaza's two million residents.

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