Under siege: drug shortage 'is killing patients in Gaza'
By Eric Silver
August 02, 2007

Shifa hospital, the biggest in the Gaza Strip, is running out of drugs. It is performing emergency operations only. The CAT scanner is out of service for want of spare parts. The orthopaedic department no longer has plaster of Paris. Hospital managers appealed yesterday to the international community to lift the siege on Gaza, which imposed after Hamas seized control in June.

Dr Juma al-Saqa, a hospital spokesman, told reporters they needed 150 tons of medicines urgently. On Monday, Israel allowed the Red Cross to bring in 50 tons. That was not enough.

Dr Moaya Abu Hasnein, the director of accident and emergency, said dozens of cancer and kidney patients were slowly dying because of the boycott. While the Rafah crossing, formerly manned by European Union monitors, remained closed, it was impossible to transfer patients to Egypt. He reported that about 700 emergency cases had been sent to hospitals in Israel and the West Bank over the past month, but that left many more behind.

Palestinian doctors are trapped in the political crossfire between the Fatah government on the West Bank and its Hamas rival in Gaza. "Our job is to administer services to the Palestinian people. We are not politicians," said Dr Abu Hasnein despairingly.

The war of words between Fatah and Hamas continues. Mahmoud Zahar, the former Hamas foreign minister, presented reporters yesterday with 30 documents seized from conquered Fatah bases in Gaza, which he said showed that Fastah stole millions of dollars of the "money of the Palestinian people".

In Moscow yesterday, Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, endorsed the visiting President Mahmoud Abbas as the "legitimate leader all the Palestinians".