Gaza fears the worst as Israel ratchets up its siege

Fears are mounting for the safety of people with health issues as already-strained hospitals are largely without power and the Palestinian territory faces a coronavirus outbreak.

Two million residents are surviving on only four hours of electricity a day after Israel cut off the fuel supply, leading to the shut down of Gaza’s sole power plant last week.

Israel made the move after the continuous launch of incendiary balloons from the coastal enclave towards Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip by activists demanding the easing of the crippling 13-year blockade.

At 5:30am local time, Salwa al-Bitar, 40, arrived at al-Shifa hospital to start her four-hour dialysis treatment in central Gaza City, which she requires once a week, before the arrival of other patients for the life-saving treatment.

“My body is very sensitive. With only four hours of electricity, it’s like experiencing death in life. I can’t breathe as I can’t operate a fan, air conditioning, or use any substitution to deal with the electricity shortage.”

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry, said the power cuts have “dangerous repercussions” for hospitals with 120 premature babies needing incubators, 100 patients in intensive care, and 950 people with kidney failure requiring haemodialysis sessions every week.

‘Dilapidated health system’

On Monday night, a total lockdown was imposed on the besieged Gaza Strip after authorities confirmed the first coronavirus infections.

“The announcement of COVID-19 cases within the community in Gaza puts the dilapidated health system due to the blockade at a dangerous new juncture, and it is difficult to withstand without regional and international support,” said al-Qidra.

Mohamed al-Qawwas, 55, needs to visit the dialysis unit three times a week, and he expressed concern at the arrival of COVID-19 in Gaza. He has diabetes and heart disease, which make a potential infection extremely dangerous.

“I go to the hospital three times a week and due to fuel and equipment shortage, I wait for about two hours to start my four-hour session,” al-Qawwas told Al Jazeera. “This is exhausting my heart and spirit.”

On August 11, Israel halted the entry of some materials into Gaza, but days later banned all transfers through the only commercial crossing except for food and medicine. The sea was also made inaccessible to fishermen on August 16

 

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