Hamas rejects claims it used death of Gaza baby to highlight electricity shortage (HA´ARETZ NEWS) 03/26/12)
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A Gaza man said Sunday his 5-month-old baby died two days ago after
the generator powering his respirator ran out of fuel, but the report
was called into question after it emerged that the timing of the
baby´s death was misrepresented.
The baby´s death - which was confirmed to The Associated Press by a
man identified as the father and a Gaza hospital official - would
have been the first linked to the territory´s energy crisis, and the
report appeared to be an attempt by Gaza´s Hamas rulers to use it to
However, the AP later learned that news of Mohammed Helou´s death
first appeared March 4 in the local Arabic-language newspaper Al-
Quds, in an article written by a relative of the bereaved family.
The baby´s father, Abdul-Halim Helou, said Mohammed was born with a
lymphatic disorder and had only a few months to live. He said they
miscalculated how much fuel a new generator needed to remove fluids
that accumulated in his respiratory system.
"If we were living in a normal country with electricity, I think his
chances of living (longer) would have been better," Helou said.
The Al-Quds article contained the same details as the one recounted
by the Helou family on Sunday, saying Mohammed died from choking on
his own phlegm. The story quoted that father as saying their
generator ran out of fuel, causing their son´s respirator to stop
working and ultimately causing the baby to choke to death.
The fuel crisis was relevant in early March as well, but Hamas
apparently missed the report in Al-Quds - a publication considered
loyal to its rival, Fatah - and Hamas was now trying to recycle the
story to capitalize on the family´s tragedy.
Confronted by the AP with the newspaper story, the family and Hamas
Gaza health official Bassem al-Qadri continued to insist the baby
arrived dead at a Gaza City hospital on Friday night.
That timing would highlight the human cost Gaza´s 1.6 million
residents are paying for 18-hour-a-day blackouts, triggered by a
cutoff of Egyptian fuel.
Shortages have caused days-long lines for fuel at gas stations, a
sharp reduction in public transportation and families left shivering
in poorly built apartments during a wet, cold winter.
More than a year ago, Hamas decided to fire Gaza´s only power plant
with smuggled fuel from Egypt, rather than pay for more expensive
Israeli fuel, as it had done in the past.
Egypt started cutting off the supplies because it was suffering
shortages itself and because it wanted to avoid absolving Israel from
continuing responsibility for the crowded, impoverished slice of
Mediterranean coast. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 but still
controls its land crossings … except the one to Egypt.
There are hundreds of smuggling tunnels under the 15-kilometer (9-
mile) Gaza-Egypt border, and Hamas raises funds by "taxing" smuggled
goods, including fuel.
Israel provided some fuel last week as the crisis worsened.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said he was not surprised by
the apparent Hamas attempt to alter details of the baby´s death.
"I don´t believe this case is at all an isolated incident but rather
the tip of the iceberg," he said. "Hamas as an authoritarian regime
consistently seeks to hide the truth and manipulate the information
that is allowed to get out of Gaza." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz
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