Hamas Chief in Gaza Contracts Coronavirus as Pandemic Worsens in Strip

Yahya Sinwar feels well and is working while adhering to coronavirus regulations, Hamas says ■ Number of patients on ventilators rises steeply

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
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Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents in his office in Gaza City, May 10, 2018.
Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, speaks to foreign correspondents in his office in Gaza City, May 10, 2018.Credit: Khalil Hamra / AP
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Yahya Sinwar, the leader of Hamas in Gaza, has contracted the coronavirus, the organization said on Tuesday.

According to Hamas, Sinwar feels well and is working as usual while adhering to Gaza's COVID guidelines. The Strip has suffered record numbers of coronavirus cases over past weeks, with diagnoses soaring past 5,000 in the tiny enclave.  

Sinwar is not the first senior Hamas official to contract COVID. According to reports in the Strip, Younis Astel, a member of the party's parliamentary faction, is hospitalized with the virus in intensive care. High-ranking Hamas figures abroad, such as deputy Hamas chief Saleh Arouri and Sami Abu Zuhri, have also tested positive.

The Gaza Health Ministry said Tuesday that over 24 hours, 815 people in the Strip have tested positive. There are currently 9,627 active coronavirus cases in Gaza, of whom 325 are hospitalized.

There are 132 patients on ventilators – a steep increase from 109 two days ago – and hospitals say 70 percent of the territory's hospital beds in intensive care units are occupied by coronavirus patients. The COVID-19 death toll in Gaza stands at 111, having increased by nine on Tuesday. 

“We’re reaching a critical situation and there’s no doubt that the Strip will need some outside intervention on the medical and humanitarian front,” a source in Gaza's health system told Haaretz.

The source said that the professionals and politicians disagreed on key issues, while the authorities were late in imposing a lockdown.

Israeli officials said they work with international groups, such as the UN’s World Health Organization, on any assistance to Gaza, rather than directly with the Hamas authorities. 

The Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Acitivities in the Territories said Israel hasn’t blocked any deliveries of medical equipment into the Strip, and claimed Israel has been working with the international community to ensure aid to Gaza’s health system.

Dozens of ventilators have been let into the coastal enclave so far, as well as PCR testing kits, allowing authorities to conduct up to 2,500 coronavirus tests a day.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Gaza residents were living on earnings of a few dozen shekels a day, so a lockdown, which Hamas has so far avoided, would mean widespread hunger.

“Imagine that a father of seven or eight children can’t even afford masks for his children, and masks cost a shekel apiece,” the Gaza health official said.

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