PA cuts medical payments to Gaza to increase pressure on Hamas

In its continued efforts to undermine Hamas rule, the PA has drastically reduced funding for health care in Gaza, leading to a medical crisis in the Strip.  

Following its decision to cease payments for electricity in the Gaza strip, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has now targeted health care in order to increase pressure on its rival Hamas to relinquish control of the beleaguered strip.

According to Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), the Gazan Health Ministry has stated that in recent months, the budget of $4 million per month paid by the PA to fund 13 hospitals and 54 primary care centers in the Strip has been slashed to circa $500,000.  In May, the Health Ministry in Ramallah also informed its counterpart in Gaza that it would cease shipment of medicines and medical equipment to the Strip.

The lack of funds, medicines and equipment is creating a humanitarian crisis, where one third of essential medicines is no longer available to patients along with a host of medical equipment needed for the everyday operation of medical facilities.

As the PA increases pressure on Hamas, it is ordinary Gazans who are paying the price.  Back in April, a senior adviser to PA told Haaretz, “We realize this sounds cruel, but in the end, after 10 years of the split and Hamas rule in the Strip, Hamas must decide whether it will control things in every sense, including ongoing expenses, or let the Palestinian government rule.”

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The cuts are inevitably hitting the most vulnerable. Munir al-Barsh, general director of the Health Ministry’s pharmaceutical department in the Gaza Strip, said that “more than 90% of cancer patients have not received treatment since May 8.”

In addition, according to PHRI, hundreds of  patients, mostly children suffering from cystic fibrosis, are unable to receive vital medicines and vitamins.  These patients are also impacted by the energy crisis, as there is no electricity to power their much-needed breathing regulation devices.

Both Israel and the PA claim that Hamas would have adequate funds to pay for medicines and electricity if not for the misappropriation of funds in order to increase its military capacity and terror infrastructure.

Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade on the Strip, although the Israeli border authority allows the flow of humanitarian goods and also gives permits to a number of individuals to enter Israel for medical care.

The Israeli Defense Ministry Branch that deals with Palestinian Civilian Affairs is the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT).  In 2016, according to COGAT, 30,768 crossings were coordinated from the Gaza Strip into Israel for medical attention. There have been 13,530 to date in 2017, despite the fact that Hamas “continuously attempts to take advantage of the civil steps promoted by Israel,” including the use of permits given to Gazans “to transfer terror funds, weapons, instructions and intelligence to perform terror attacks in Israel.”

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In April, two sisters, one of whom is a cancer sufferer, were caught by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) attempting to sneak explosives from the Strip into Israel, disguising it as medicine.

In a briefing on Monday, Housing Minister Yoav Galant, a member of the Israeli security cabinet, said, “We have to make sure there is enough water and medicine in the Gaza Strip. We are doing our best… We are willing to get any kind of support” from the international community to ease the humanitarian crisis.

By Gary Cohen/World Israel News