Gaza hospital to stop surgery as runs out of gas

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GAZA, Oct 21 (Reuters) A Palestinian health official said today Gaza's main hospital would be forced to stop surgery because Israel had banned imports of anaesthetic gas, but Israel said it had not blocked medical supplies.

Khaled Radi, spokesman of the Hamas-run ministry of health in the Gaza Strip, said Israel had told the company that imports hospital supplies into Gaza it would not supply the gas, which is needed to conduct surgery.

He said the hospital had barely two canisters of gas left and would have to halt surgery soon.

''This is a crime against humanity. Israel is killing patients, including women and children,'' Radi said.

Gaza's Shifa hospital is the main medical facility in the impoverished coastal enclave, home to 1.5 million people, and is used for major operations. Radi said supplies of anaesthetic gas were also running out at Gaza's four smaller hospitals.

But Israel, which has shut the Gaza border to everything but humanitarian supplies since Hamas seized the coastal territory in June, said it had not stopped the flow of medical supplies and that anaesthetic gas would be allowed in.

''I don't know if there has been a request for this gas but if there has there should be no problem,'' said Shlomo Dror, spokesman for the Israeli coordinator for the Palestinian territories. ''They get all the medical supplies they ask for.'' Israel has tightened border restrictions around Gaza since the violent takeover in June. The Jewish state last month branded Gaza an ''enemy entity'' in response to regular rocket attacks from militants inside the territory.

REUTERS SKB PM2005

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