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Abbas sends medical aid to Venezuela, sparking Gaza criticism

Palestinians criticised the PA's move to send aid to Venezuela as Gaza continues to be plagued with power cuts
Riad al-Maliki in front of the PA's medical shipment to Venezuela (screengrab)

Mahmoud Abbas ordered the Palestinian Authority to send three lorry loads of medical aid to Venezuela on Sunday, sparking criticism of the PA's hand in crippling power cuts and a shortage of medicine in the Gaza Strip.

The PA president sent the shipment of medical supplies after a request by Venezuela's president, Nicolas Maduro. 

Riad al-Maliki, the PA's minister of foreign affairs, confirmed to the Maan News agency that his government had agreed to send three lorries loaded with medical supplies. 

He described the aid shipment as the Palestinian government's way to "repay" the Venezuelan government after it donated $15m to build an eye hospital in the village of Turmus Ayya near Ramallah. 

Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, however, took to social media to criticise Abbas's decision to send aid to Venezuela. Some dubbed the move "illogical" and "completely mad" as the besieged enclave continues to face major power cuts. 

Ahmed Jarrar, a freelance journalist in West Bank wrote on Facebook: "Venezuela is in our head, and helping them is a duty, but cutting the aid to Gaza and sending it to Venezuela - the same aid that was given to help Palestinians - it's not logical and completely mad." 

Muneer Alboursh, who heads a hospital in Gaza, was frustrated at the decision made by Abbas to deliver medical aid to Venezuela as his patients languish in the besieged enclave. 

"Do you feel shame from Allah when you send it to Venezuela and ignore the calls of help coming from Gaza's children?!" said Alboursh.  

Yoav Mordechai, who leads Israel's COGAT body which controls major swathes of the West Bank and Israeli operations in Gaza, also criticised Abbas's decision. 

"Abbas helps Venezuela with the medical equipment, but what about the Palestinians?" he asked on Twitter.

"To draw your attention, that it is an hour drive from Ramallah to Gaza and to Venezuela, it's more than 10,000 kilometres."

Ongoing unrest in Venezuela has led to a rapid increase in food prices as President Nicolas Maduro continues his fight to stay in power. 

Caracas has been a long-time supporter of the Palestinian cause and has spoken on the issue multiple times at the UN. 

Abbas has travelled to Venezuela several times, including a meeting with Maduro in 2016 on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement Summit. 

The PA has over the summer cut payments to Israel for the power supply to Gaza, cut the salaries of thousands of PA staff in Gaza, and forced others into early retirement. The move is designed to put pressure on Hamas, which governs the strip.

As a result of the PA payment withdrawals, generators used to power hospitals inside Gaza have been unable to meet demand due to fuel shortages. Gaza is already under a joint Israeli-Egyptian siege.

Gazans now receive only a couple of hours of electricity a day, delivered by the territory's own power station and others in Israel and Egypt.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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