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OPT: At Gaza hospitals, patients fear for worst

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By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, June 18 (Reuters) - Ahmed al-Ashri is a desperate son: With the only border crossing between Gaza and Egypt closed, there is no way to get his ailing father to an Egyptian hospital to treat the cancer that is growing in his lungs.

Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip last week has shut the Rafah border crossing to Gazans like Ashri and his frail father. The European monitors who normally man the terminal have pulled out indefinitely.

Egypt shuttered its diplomatic and security mission in the impoverished enclave after Hamas overran President Mahmoud Abbas's security forces. Abbas sacked the Hamas-led government and appointed an emergency administration of his own.

Watching his father suffer in his Gaza City hospital bed, Ashri said the only hope was chemotherapy, either in Egypt or Israel. "We are unable to get him out," he said.

Hassan Abu Taweela, director of Gaza's largest hospital, Shifa, said at least 40 patients across the strip were on a waiting list to be evacuated to Israel, Egypt or Jordan.

He said the hospital was running out of blood, life-saving drugs and spare parts to keep the equipment running.

Abbas has sworn in an emergency government in the occupied West Bank and Western powers have responded by promising to send him funds. But it is unclear if any of that money will make its way to Hamas-controlled Gaza or its hospitals.

CALL FOR HELP

The crisis in Gaza did not start with last week's takeover.

A crippling Western aid embargo on the Palestinian Authority took effect after Hamas came to power in March 2006 because the Islamists refused to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals. Hamas was able to secure some support from Israel's arch-foe Iran.

"Was this our fault? We are patients," said 18-year-old Heba al-Najar, whose kidneys are failing. "We had nothing to do with the internal fighting. Why were they fighting anyways?" the ailing girl said with a weak voice.

Najar said she feared Israel would cut the power that runs her dialysis machine and keep her medicines out. "I could die," she said.

Israel said it was looking for ways to reopen the border crossings to bring in humanitarian supplies. It refuses to deal directly the Hamas-run administration but is looking for go-betweens.

Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip was aware of the problem at Karni and that efforts were under way to reopen the crossings to goods.

Najar said the solution was simple: reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. "Help us get the aid we need," she said from her hospital bed.

Umm Mohammad's young child lay sick in a bed by her side at Shifa Hospital. "These are children. Help us keep them alive," she said.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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