GAZA CITY — Seven medical centers in Gaza have stopped services due to lack of fuel to power generators, the health ministry in the Palestinian enclave said Wednesday, two days after a hospital took similar steps.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry in Hamas-run Gaza, said the health situation had entered an “unprecedented stage” due to an electricity crisis.
He said the seven centers in different parts of Gaza would stop all services as they did not have the fuel to run back-up generators.
On Monday, a hospital in Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza announced it would transfer all its patients and stop services due to lack of fuel.
The Hamas terror group’s longtime rival in the West Bank, Fatah, has accused the Islamists of exaggerating the problem, saying fuel and funding have been provided.
Israel and Egypt have maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip for more than a decade, saying it is necessary to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.
Some human rights groups say the blockade amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s two million residents, but Jerusalem maintains that materials going in and out of the strip needs to be checked meticulously because Hamas often uses the international aid to restock its weaponry and build tunnels into Israel.
Gaza needs around 500 megawatts of power a day but receives less than half of that, meaning residents receive only a few hours of mains electricity per day.
Mohammed Thabet, spokesman for the electricity distribution company in Gaza GEDCO, said this week it had been as low as 178 megawatts, while demand has spiked due to cold weather.
To survive, hospitals and other public bodies rely on fuel-powered generators, but fuel shortages are common.
Thabet said the amount of fuel imported from neighboring Egypt had declined in recent days. Egypt has also kept its border with Gaza largely closed in recent years, but has allowed fuel imports.
The United Nations provides some financing to help ensure key infrastructure such as hospitals have fuel, but regularly faces funding shortages.