August 28, 2007 / 7:08 PM / in 11 years

Gaza clinics closed, retaliation for doctor strikes

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Four private clinics in the Gaza Strip were closed on Tuesday after doctors staged work stoppages in protest at how Hamas was running the enclave’s health system.

Khaled Radi, spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza, said the private clinics were shut as a "punitive measure against doctors who incite others to strike and suspend services".

"We will not allow those who deprive patients of public services in hospitals to suck the blood of patients in their private clinics," Radi told Reuters.

Doctors supporting the secular Fatah faction of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have been walking off the job at Gaza’s public hospitals at 11 a.m. every day in protest at what they call Hamas Islamists’ "takeover" of the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Many of the same doctors also run private clinics. Hamas took power in the Gaza Strip in June. Abbas dismissed a Hamas-led government and retains control in the West Bank.

A Fatah-affiliated physician, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals, said that he and fellow doctors were being punished for exercising their "right to strike".

Doctors say they have rescheduled appointments to minimise any risks and inconvenience to patients from their action.

Earlier this month, Hamas sacked the head of Gaza’s Shifa hospital and briefly detained one of its directors. This prompted widespread protests by hospital staff who oppose Hamas attempts to tighten control of health institutions.

Hamas has accused Fatah of inciting public employees to commit acts of civil disobedience to undermine its rule in Gaza.

Since Hamas took over Gaza, many institutions have been in a state of confusion, with rival directors, appointed respectively by the Islamists and Fatah, insisting they are in charge.

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