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Fuel shortage closes seven Gaza medical centers: ministry

Beds lie empty at Beit Hanun hospital in the Gaza Strip after it stopped its services on January 29, 2018 blaming a lack of fuel to power generators
MAHMUD HAMS (AFP)
To survive, hospitals and other public bodies rely on fuel-powered generators, but fuel shortages are common.

Seven medical centers in Gaza have stopped services due to lack of fuel to power generators, the health ministry in the Palestinian enclave said, two days after a hospital took similar steps.

Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for the ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, said the health situation had entered an "unprecedented stage" due to an electricity crisis.

He said the seven centers in different parts of Gaza would stop all services as they did not have the fuel to run back-up generators.

On Monday, a hospital in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza announced it would transfer all its patients and stop services due to lack of fuel.

The internationally recognized Palestinian government, based in the West Bank and run by Hamas's longtime rivals Fatah, has accused the Islamists of exaggerating the problem, saying fuel and funding have been provided.

Israel has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip for more than a decade which it says is necessary to isolate Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008.

Human rights groups say it amounts to collective punishment of Gaza's two million residents.

Gaza needs around 500 megawatts of power a day but receives less than half of that, meaning residents receive only a few hours of mains electricity per day. 

Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for the electricity distribution company in Gaza GEDCO, said this week it had been as low as 178 megawatts, while demand has spiked due to cold weather. 

To survive, hospitals and other public bodies rely on fuel-powered generators, but fuel shortages are common.

Thabet said the amount of fuel imported from neighboring Egypt had declined in recent days. Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years, but has allowed fuel imports.

The United Nations provides some financing to help ensure key infrastructure such as hospitals have fuel, but regularly faces funding shortages.

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