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Gaza fears the worst as Israel ratchets up its siege | News



Gaza City – Fears are mounting for the safety of people with health issues as already-strained hospitals are largely without power and the Palestinian territory faces a coronavirus outbreak.

Two million residents are surviving on only four hours of electricity a day after Israel cut off the fuel supply, leading to the shut down of Gaza’s sole power plant last week.

Israel made the move after the continuous launch of incendiary balloons from the coastal enclave towards Israeli communities surrounding the Gaza Strip by activists demanding the easing of the crippling 13-year blockade.

At 5:30am local time, Salwa al-Bitar, 40, arrived at al-Shifa hospital to start her four-hour dialysis treatment in central Gaza City, which she requires once a week, before the arrival of other patients for the life-saving treatment.

“The situation is harder than before in addition to the precautionary measures to avoid COVID-19 infections. We are afraid from the effects of the fuel shortage on hospitals,” al-Bitar told Al Jazeera.

“My body is very sensitive. With only four hours of electricity, it’s like experiencing death in life. I can’t breathe as I can’t operate a fan, air conditioning, or use any substitution to deal with the electricity shortage.”

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry, said the power cuts have “dangerous repercussions” for hospitals with 120 premature babies needing incubators, 100 patients in intensive care, and 950 people with kidney failure requiring haemodialysis sessions every week.

“In addition, the electricity crisis endangers the daily surgeries, caesarean deliveries, and the laboratories … as the old generators can barely cover the electricity needs during this crisis,” al-Qidra told Al Jazeera.

Salwa al-Bitar at al-Shifa hospital receiving her four-hour dialysis treatment [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

‘Dilapidated health system’

On Monday night, a total lockdown was imposed on the besieged Gaza Strip after authorities confirmed the first coronavirus infections.

“The announcement of COVID-19 cases within the community in Gaza puts the dilapidated health system due to the blockade at a dangerous new juncture, and it is difficult to withstand without regional and international support,” said al-Qidra.

Mohamed al-Qawwas, 55, needs to visit the dialysis unit three times a week, and he expressed concern at the arrival of COVID-19 in Gaza. He has diabetes and heart disease, which make a potential infection extremely dangerous.

“I go to the hospital three times a week and due to fuel and equipment shortage, I wait for about two hours to start my four-hour session,” al-Qawwas told Al Jazeera. “This is exhausting my heart and spirit.”

On August 11, Israel halted the entry of some materials into Gaza, but days later banned all transfers through the only commercial crossing except for food and medicine. The sea was also made inaccessible to fishermen on August 16.

[Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Mohamed al-Qawwas expressed concern over COVID-19 because of his diabetes and heart disease [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

‘Ignoring crimes’

Fawzi Barhoum – a spokesman for Hamas, the rulers of Gaza – called Israel’s move “a crime against humanity”.

“If the occupation thinks that this siege will undermine the determination and persistence of our people and its resistance, and that it will achieve security for them, that is delusional,” Barhoum said in a statement.

He urged intervention by the international community. “We call on human rights and humanitarian institutions and the international community – and decision-makers in the region – to break their silence and work to curb the Zionist aggression and end the blockade of Gaza.

“The absence of deterrent decisions to the occupation, but rather ignoring its crimes and normalisation with it is the main reason for its persistence in its crimes and violations against Palestinians.”

The Palestinian Businessmen Association in Gaza announced on Monday that nearly 2,000 companies have been completely or partially affected by the power station’s stoppage.

“Preventing the entry of various materials necessary for the activity of the industrial and health sectors threatens to have dangerous repercussions on the strategic stock of basic needs, threatening food insecurity, high unemployment, and poverty rates,” Ali al-Hayek, head of the association, told Al Jazeera.

[Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

The price of bread is soaring because of the intensified siege on Gaza by Israel [Ashraf Amra/Al Jazeera]

Food shortages

Walid al-Efranj, sales manager of a bakery chain, said fuel shortages were already affecting food production in the territory.

“The food industry in Gaza has been affected negatively by the lack of fuel as there is a decrease in production. And because of the coronavirus crisis, consumers rushed to stockpile food for the home quarantine period, which forced us to work longer hours using fuel generators that increase the cost of production for us,” he said.

Ahmed Labib al-Helou, head of the Association of Owners of Oil and Gas Companies in Gaza, warned of “disastrous consequences” on fuel supplies if the closure of the Karem Abu Salem (known as Kerem Shalom to Israelis)commercial crossing with the Israeli side continues.

Gaza’s power station shuts down as Israel cuts off diesel imports

Fishermen, too, are voicing concern.

“We depend on daily wages from selling the fish catch. If we don’t work we can’t afford food for our families, and for the 13th day in a row there is no source of income because of the ban on fishing,” said Khaled al-Habil, 40, a fisherman from the al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.

“In addition to the implications of COVID-19 and precautionary measures that decreased our fish supply during the past three months, now Israel has shut down the sea. Two enemies against us – that is too much.”

Palestinian politician Jamal al-Khudari, chairman of the National Committee to Confront the Siege against Gaza, said the reopening of the commercial crossing was imperative with Gaza now facing the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The coronavirus pandemic enters Gaza in the most difficult humanitarian, health and environmental conditions, in light of the tightening of the occupation’s siege,” he said in a statement.

Palestinian sources confirmed the Qatari envoy to Gaza, Mohammed al-Emadi, was in the enclave on Wednesday as part of mediation efforts to alleviate tension between Israel and Hamas and fears of another all-out war.

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Another blow as Judge throws out Kiggundu’s lawyer Muwema



When court sat on Friday to hear the Kiggundu’s application to stop independent audit, he did not have a written application, and Justice Henry Adonyo instead ordered the plaintiff’s lawyer Fred Muwema to go make a written application seeking court to dismiss the audit and return to court on September 30 for a hearing of the application. But this adds more pressure on Kiggundu who is choking with the loans.

On 31 August, the judge ordered the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda (ICPAU) to carry out and independent audit into the accounts of the businessman and financial statements exchanged between the two parties, and present a report to court.

When asked by journalists why he has filed for an application seeking dismissal of the audit, Fred Muwema had this to say. “We are saying that let the validity and legality of those credit facilities (loans) be decided first before you can audit” He said.

The ruling on the application of the main suit to determine whether the businessman owes loan arrears to the bank is set for 5th October 2020, after which a date for hearing of the case will be set.


Hamis Kiggundu through his companies Ham enterprises and Kiggs International (U) ltd sued DTB branches in Kenya and Uganda for deducting money from his accounts something which the bank contends and said they only acted as per the loan agreement of deducting 30% from Kiggundu’s accounts to recover the credit facilities rendered to him between February 2011 and September 2016

But Court documents filed by the bank in their defense shows that Kiggundu, between February 2011 and September 2016, was granted various credit facilities by the said DTB Banks.

First, via Ham Enterprises Limited, Kiggundu obtained a loan of $6,663,453 and another Sh2.5bn from the DTB (U) to finance his projects in the real estate business.

Later, according to New Vision, he got a facility worth $4.5m through Kiggs International (U) Limited from DTB (K) and mortgaged his properties, which include Plot 328 located at Kawuku on Block 248 Kyadondo, three plots that include 36, 37 and 38 on Folio 1533 Victoria Crescent II situated in Kyadondo and land on Makerere Hill Road on LRV 3716 Folio 10 Plot 923 Block 9.

Documents show that as of January 21, 2020, Kiggundu was in default on payment obligations of $6.298m on the loan facility of $6.663m, as well as sh2.885b on the demand overdraft facility of sh1.5b and the temporary demand overdraft facility of sh1b.

The banks say that Kiggundu was in default on the payment of another $3.662m out of a total loan facility of $4m and another $458,604 on a loan facility of $500,000, as of January 21, 2020.

The DTB consequently served him with a demand notice to either pay up or lose the assets that he submitted as collateral security. The bank threatened to attach a plot on Makerere Hill Road and other prime commercial properties.

Analysts says that Kiggundu’s lawyer is playing delaying tactics aimed at stopping the independent audit as ordered by the court earlier. Kiggundu had wanted court to believe his own audit of loan transactions, but that would amount to injustice to the banks that gave him money-DTB Uganda and DTB Kenya.

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Minister Rukutana charged with attempted murder, remanded




The state minister for Labour, Gender and Economic Development Mwesigwa Rukutana has been remanded to Kyamugorani prison in Mbarara district.

Rukutana appeared before Ntungamo Grade One magistrate Nazifah Namayanja this afternoon from where he was charged with seven offences related to attempted murder, assault, malicious damage, and threatening violence.

Rukutana was captured in a video that went viral on social media showing him grabbing a gun from one of his bodyguards and started shooting at a vehicle belonging to supporters of his political rival Naome Kabasharira. At the time of the incident, Rukutana had just lost the Rushenyi country NRM flag to Kabasharira.

The prosecution alleges that on September 5, 2020, at Kagugu village in Ntungamo district, Rukutana and others still at large assaulted Julius Niwamanya and threatened to kill or injure him together with three others. The others are Stuart Kamukama, Dan Rwibirungi, and Moses Kamukama. 

It is also alleged that Rukutana also willfully and unlawfully damaged a motor vehicle registration number UAR 840X Toyota Rav 4 type which belongs to Moses Muhumuza.

According to the Judiciary public relations officer, Jameson Karemani, Rukutana has not taken a plea of these charges against him since they can only be tried by the chief magistrate who was not in court today.

As a result, the magistrate decided to send him to Kyamugorani, awaiting his return to court on Tuesday.      

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Lira district headquarters closed over COVID-19




Lira district headquarters have been closed after one staff tested positive for COVID-19 last week. 

On Monday morning, district staff were blocked at the gate with only the deputy chief administrative officer, his secretary and the receptionist allowed access to their offices. 

Paul Samuel Mbiiwa, the deputy chief administrative officer says that only heads of department will be allowed at the headquarters while the rest will work from home. He adds that the restriction will help to curb the spread of the virus.

“You see corona is not a joke. We have taken a step at fighting it and that is why you are seeing the staff outside. Even in my office here I do not want people to come if there is anything we can discuss on the phone.”

Francis Okello Olwa, a senior community development officer who doubles as the district spokesperson says that the entire district offices will be fumigated and closed for two days.

Health authorities in the district are planning to take samples from all the staff because they could have interacted with the one who tested positive. Currently, there are 19 COVID-19 patients under treatment at Lira regional referral hospital.     

On Sunday four health workers at the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Patrick Odongo, a senior medical officer at the hospital also succumbed to the virus.  

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