Friend Ships, a Louisiana-based Christian ministry, is setting up a field hospital in Northern Gaza. From Gaza’s early days as its own region, the area has suffered under blockades placed on it by Israel and Egypt. While the blockades may have prevented advanced weaponry for terrorism from coming in, it has also prevented Gaza from obtaining the amount of modern medical equipment needed to care for its 2 million residents.
Hamas has welcomed the building of the hospital, however the PA authorities in Ramallah have expressed concern. Times of Israel reports that ”An official in the West Bank has claimed the project… is a front for American and Israeli intelligence operations,” The official points out that Friend Ships’s founders are openly pro-Israel and voices this as a concern. However, Hamas officials have called out the PA for the “unfounded” allegations and continue ahead with their support of the hospital.
The Fatah-led Palestinian authority continues to criticize and accuse those behind the building of the hospital; some even stating that it is “ serving the Trump administration’s peace plan.” But the root of the disapproval seems to be found in one statement made by PLO Executive Committee member Wasel Abu Yousef. Abu Yousef told The Times of Israel that “he believed the hospital was deepening the division between the West Bank and Gaza because its planning and construction was not coordinated with the PA.” This sentiment was echoed by the PA Health Ministry who stated that they believed the project “seeks to achieve Israeli goals aimed at liquidating and fragmenting the Palestinian cause” and create a mini Palestinian state in Gaza.”
The hospital was indeed planned between Israel, Gaza, Friend Ships and Qatar (who is partially funding the hospital); the PA was not involved. Why is this a big deal? While Gaza has been a self governing territory since 2005 and had elected Hamas as it’s leadership in 2007, it still receives a certain level of direction from the Fatah Palestinian Authority and is officially considered to be a PA territory. Fatah and Hamas have long held opposing views, and this situation now brings the tense truth to light. Hamas would rather be independent from any Fatah rule.
With tensions between the two Palestinian Political groups growing, leadership within the Friend Ship organization have chosen not to comment on the hospital nor the political situations around it. From all appearances, they seem to only care about doing the job they came to do, i.e., caring for the sick in Gaza.
The hospital will contain, “Telemedicine for worldwide consultation with specialists, a large children’s play area, hydroponics training program and distribution center.” The Friend Ships website states that eventually they would like to add services for; Maternity care, family medicine, cancer treatment, pediatrics, PTSD treatment, and more. Medical and non-medical volunteers make up the staff, most of which are coming from the US.
While most of the updates have been erased and ceased from the Friend Ships Facebook page, it appears that they are still in the construction stage of the hospital. The longevity of the project is dictated in part by the current ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel. If the ceasefire is broken by Hamas, the hospital may have to cease operations. Likewise, Hamas deputy chief Khalil al-Hayya has stated that the terrorist group would shut the project down if anything seemed out of line with their security and interests.