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Gaza hospitals, clinics to reopen after Emirati grant: WHO

© AFP/File | Beds lie empty at the Beit Hanun hospital in the Gaza Strip after it stopped its services on January 29, 2018 for want of fuel

GAZA (PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES) (AFP) - 

Nearly 20 medical centres in Gaza will fully reopen in the coming days after the United Arab Emirates provided financing to end a fuel shortage, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Three hospitals and 16 medical centres had stopped offering key services in recent weeks as crippling fuel shortages meant they were unable to keep generators going, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said.

Gaza receives only a few hours of mains electricity a day, so hospitals and other vital services rely on private generators run with fuel provided by the United Nations.

After an emergency UN appeal, the UAE has pledged $2 million for fuel for the coming year, said Mahmoud Dahar, head of the WHO in Gaza.

"We have received an announcement from the UAE that they are going to fund two million, which will make the situation a bit easier for another few months," he told AFP.

He added that he expected the hospitals and centres to fully reopen "in the coming days."

The ministry said it was awaiting official confirmation of the UAE funds and did not say when the centres would return to normal operations.

Israel has maintained a crippling blockade of Gaza for a decade which it says is necessary to isolate the territory's Islamist leaders Hamas. Critics say it represents collective punishment of two million people.

More than two-thirds of Gazans rely on international aid.

Separately on Thursday Egypt, which has also largely sealed its border with Gaza, opened the Rafah crossing for the first time in 2018. It is to remain open for three days.

US President Donald Trump has also withheld tens of millions in aid for Palestinians in recent weeks.

On Thursday, AIDA, a coalition of 70 international charities working in the Palestinian territories, said that decision would particularly affect Gaza.

It said the funding cuts "will lead to increased food insecurity, aid dependency, poverty, isolation, unemployment and hopelessness."

© 2018 AFP