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Parents of children at Gaza hospital plead for help amid fuel shortage

Families of patients at Al-Rantisi hospital tell MEE of their fears as facility comes close to running out of fuel amid Israeli blockage of Qatari funds
Najwan al-Samouti, whose son Yahya is being treated at Al-Rantisi, says: "If the dialysis stops completely, my son will die" (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

GAZA - Parents of children and staff at Gaza's Al-Rantisi children's hospital have been telling Middle East Eye of their fears as the facility comes close to running out of fuel.

Gaza's health ministry warned this weekend that hundreds of patients across the besieged strip face an unknown fate in the coming hours as Israel continues to block vital Qatari funds.

Ashraf al-Qedra, a ministry spokesman, said several hospitals face shutting down their electric generators due to the fuel crisis.

"We are talking about hundreds of patients, among them 800 suffering kidney failure and tens of prematurely born children, more than 250 surgeries per day, and dangerous pregnancies, including 150 cesarian sections," Qedra said at a news conference on Sunday.

This is totally against international norms and laws

- Dr Mohammed Abu Salmiyyah, General Director of Al-Rantisi children's hospital

"We need 300,000 litres of diesel to ensure our health services function every month."

Speaking to MEE, Dr Mohammed Abu Salmiyyah, the general director of Al-Rantisi, said: "We have in the Al-Rantisi hospital a 24-hour dialysis department and a department for cancer patients.

"The weather is cold now and there are bitter winds. We are not able to run the heating or other related services when the [electricity] current stops.

"We are threatened with losing many lives. We are facing a major crisis.

"In addition to medicine shortages from time to time, there is a lack of treatment and failure to be able to travel through the crossings [out of Gaza].

"This is totally against international norms and laws. The patient must feel safe in their hospital bed."

'The world conspires against us'

Among those most threatened by the fuel shortage are children on life-saving dialysis machines.

Najwan al-Samouti, whose son Yahya is being treated at Al-Rantisi, said: "For us this is an old problem that has recently returned over the past month or two.

"Once again, the world conspires against us. Gaza remains under a continuing blockade.

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"This is the life of the sick children put in danger. Even when electricity is available, it is not constant.

"Pyschologically, we don't have a lot of comfort, there are no guarantees of survival.

"I have been coming to the Abd al-Aziz Rantisi Hospital For Children for four years for dialysis for my son, four times a week, constantly thinking and anxious about the situation. Reducing the number of weekly treatments will lead to pollution of the blood.

"If the dialysis stops completely, my son will die."

PA-Hamas rift

In 2017, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pulled the plug on Palestinian Authority (PA) funds for fuel in the Gaza Strip, part of a number of moves to squeeze Hamas, the PA's rival movement which governs Gaza.

Hamas and Abbas's Fatah party, which dominates the PA in the occupied West Bank, have been at odds since 2007, when the movement took control of the coastal enclave.

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Soon after Israel imposed a crippling siege on Gaza, which combined with several Israeli offensives and the PA-Hamas breakdown has devastated Gaza's infrastructure and living conditions.

Abbas's fuel embargo has only exacerbated this, with electricity supply about 50 percent of what it should be.

Gaza's health ministry has kept its generators running through international donations, but now those funds are coming to an end.

A Qatari grant has helped keep the only power plant in Gaza active, reducing the number of hours hospitals need to rely on generators.

However, Israel has refused the entry of Qatari money into the Gaza Strip for a second week in a row, leaving public sector employees hired by Hamas unpaid and increasing tensions in the besieged enclave.

'When the electricity cuts the child will die'

Critics of Israel's blockade say it amounts to collective punishment of the impoverished enclave's two million residents.

Egypt also upholds the siege, restricting movement in and out of Gaza on its border.

Hamto al-Satari, father of 10-year-old Ragheb, told MEE: "I have been doing the dialysis four times a week for five years running.

Ten-year-old Ragheb has been receiving dialysis treatment four times a week for the past five years (MEE/Mohammed Asad)

"When the electricity cuts the child will die because his life is dependent on this device.

"I watch him for hours a week, wondering whether it will continue to work or whether his path will end and I will be left prostrated over his lifeless body.

"Especially because dialysis is only performed in this hospital, it is not available in any other place and there are no alternatives.

"The Gaza Strip is besieged and the crossings closed so there is no space for the children to be evacuated outside if the electricity stops completely."

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

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