Power crisis takes heavy toll on Gaza hospitals

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ISTANBUL
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An acute power crisis has taken a heavy toll on hospitals and medical centers in the blockaded Gaza Strip. In a statement released yesterday, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a total of 16 medical centers have suspended services over the crisis since Jan. 29.

"Emergency generators have stopped at three hospitals because of the outages, including a children's hospital," ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said in a statement.

The emergency generator has shut at the sole medical center in al-Nusairat district in central Gaza Strip, the spokesman said, warning of grave health consequences of the fuel crisis on the lives of patients in the blockaded Palestinian territory.

Home to nearly two million people, the Gaza Strip boasts a total of 13 Ministry-run hospitals and 54 primary health care centers that account for roughly 95 percent of all health services in the coastal enclave.

Gaza, which continues to groan under a decade-long Israeli siege, has struggled with severe electricity shortages since 2006. Although the territory requires an estimated 600 megawatts of electricity, it currently receives only 120 megawatts from Israel and another 32 megawatts from Egypt. Gaza's sole functioning power plant, meanwhile, is only able to generate 60 megawatts of electricity, according to the Palestinian Energy Authority.

The closure of the hospital comes amid debates that the U.S. will cut aid to a United Nations department that provides resources to Gaza. Last month, Washington announced that it would freeze $65 million in funding to the United Nations Relief and Welfare Agency (UNRWA) unless Palestinians return to the negotiating table with Israelis. A wide strike was organized in Gaza by U.N. employees denouncing the U.S. "Palestinians have been angered by a U.S. decision to cut aid to UNRWA, saying it will cause worse hardship in Gaza. More than half the enclave's two million residents depend on support from UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies.

The UNRWA was formed in 1949 and supports some 5 million Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, many of whose families fled during the conflict that followed Israel's declaration of independence in 1948.

On Dec. 6, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and ordered the relocation of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city. The U.S. policy shift triggered outcry in the Arab and Muslim world and a wave of protests in the Palestinian lands that left at least 16 people dead. Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Israel-Palestine conflict with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem occupied by Israel since 1967, might eventually serve as the capital of an independent Palestinian state.

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