GAZA STRIP (Dispatches) – A U.S. charity building a tent hospital in the Gaza Strip is causing Palestinian unease by offering foreign medical volunteers the opportunity of weekend tourism in the Israeli-occupied territories, just across the volatile Gaza fence.
The facility, to be operated by the U.S. evangelical Christian group FriendShips, had won rare joint support from the resistance movement Hamas and its enemy, the Zionist regime, which maintains a blockade on the enclave.
Now, however, eyebrows are being raised in Gaza over a Holy Land pilgrimage pitch on the Louisiana-based organization’s website that is promoting an endeavor to improve health services strained by years of conflict.
The 50-bed encampment in northern Gaza across from the Erez crossing "will offer a wonderful opportunity to work in an important and productive project and, at the same time, to see and enjoy the Biblical sites of Israel”, the website said.
Volunteers at the facility would be expected to work and live onsite Monday through Thursday but they "will be free to go to Israel and tour” on their days off, it said.
Asked about the NGO’s tourism perk to volunteers, Hamas official Basim Naeem said: "We are certainly against using our people’s suffering to market Israel or attracting employees at our people’s expense.”
There was no suggestion from Hamas that it was about to scrap the project as a result of the sightseeing offer.
A de facto truce brokered between the Zionist regime and Hamas by Qatar, Egypt and the United Nations after deadly fighting in May included the mediators’ support for the field hospital.
Gaza’s 13 hospitals often lack equipment for specialized treatments, while its two million residents need hard-to-obtain permits from the occupying regime’s authorities to get medical care in the occupied territories.