GAZA CITY, (AFP) – Gaza is lacking about 40 percent of basic medicines, the Hamas health minister said on Thursday, accusing the Palestinian Authority of withholding key stocks.
The charge was rejected by his opposite number in the Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA), who pointed the finger back at Hamas, saying the shortages were the result of “mismanagement.”
“The health situation in Gaza is very difficult, if there is any new Israeli war the situation will be catastrophic,” Hamas health minister Bassem Naim told AFP, saying the health services were missing 182 out of 450 basic types of medicine.
“This is because of a political decision by the government in Ramallah not to send it,” he said.
“If there is any Israeli war on Gaza, we will need this medicine immediately.”
Increasing rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel has raised fears of a new Israeli offensive on the enclave, akin to a 2008-2009 offensive, which killed 1,400 Palestinians in 22 days, more than half of them civilians.
A source within the Hamas government blamed the shortage on a politically motivated decision within the Palestinian Authority, which is controlled by the rival Fatah movement.
“The Ramallah government doesn’t want to send the medical supplies because it helps Hamas,” the source told AFP, saying Hamas would issue an urgent appeal for international health organisations to pressure Ramallah into releasing the necessary supplies.
But Fathi Abu Mughli, health minister in the Palestinian Authority, insisted the Ramallah government was “fully committed” to the people of Gaza.
“We are continuously supplying medicines,” he told AFP. “Every two months we send between five and ten trucks loaded with medicine and equipment.”
Abu Mughli said the shortage was the result of “mismanagement” by the Hamas
health ministry which had sacked some 1,600 ministry of health employees and replaced them with people “with no experience in dealing with or storing medicine.”
Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a bitter dispute since 2007, when the Islamists forced Fatah out of Gaza after days of bloody fighting.
Since then, the two sides have traded barbs over a number of issues, with Hamas regularly accusing the PA of withholding funds or key supplies in a bid to put the squeeze on Gaza’s Islamist government.