PA: Hamas Health Officials Profiting from Stealing Medicine, Taxing Shipped Goods

Kerem Shalom crossing

A spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health on Sunday accused Hamas appointed ministry officials in the Gaza Strip of stealing medicines and supplies, Ma’an reported.

At a news conference in Ramallah, Osama al-Najjar said that the Ministry of Health had shipped large quantities of medicines and medical equipment to the Strip during the last conflict with Israel.

Al-Najjar said the ministry “didn’t know where those medicines were distributed and who benefited from them.”

“After investigations, we have been informed that influential ministry officials in Gaza steal these medicines and equipment, and that the medicines do not go to hospitals and the health sector in the Gaza Strip which badly need them.”

Al-Najjar said the ministry was still sending medicine to Gaza, at the cost of creating serious shortages in the West Bank.

“During the Israeli military offensive against Gaza, central West Bank medicine warehouses were completely emptied, ” al-Najjar said.

Hamas and the PLO formed a unity government that came into power in June, but have since traded accusations about payment of salaries, attacks on the property of Fatah officials in Gaza, and a lack of commitment to Palestinians in the Strip.

Asked about unpaid hospital cleaning workers, who began an open strike last week, al-Najjar said the workers did not have the right to stage strikes against the ministry, but rather against the private companies that hire them. He said they are not employed by the ministry.

“We are being blackmailed and we won’t yield to this blackmail.”

The crisis was “made up” by those who control medicine shipments, al-Najjar alleged.

“Those cleaners have been incited on purpose to withdraw from their workplaces, and so far some influential officials of the Ministry of Health have prevented volunteers from removing the piled garbage from Gaza hospitals, and this is a very serious matter.”

Hospital cleaning workers in the Gaza Strip started protests in October after not being paid for several months, and as of last Tuesday they have been on full strike.

The ministry spokesman stressed that since the formation of a Palestinian national consensus government, Gaza ministry officials “haven’t sent a single shekel from the ministry’s revenues to the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Finance.”

Al-Najjar also accused the Hamas movement of inventing “a new department at the Karm Abu Salem (Kerem Shalom) crossing called the general administration of custom tax security.”

This department, he said, “forcibly collects 2.5 percent custom tax on everything that enters Gaza, including medicines and medical equipment.”

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