Hamas closes Gaza clinics, imposes press restrictions

Tuesday, August 28, 2007 |  by Staff Writer

Gaza's Hamas rulers on Monday ordered all private clinics in the volatile coastal strip closed, and said it would begin enforcing a 1995 law placing heavy restrictions on freedom of the press.

Most of Gaza's private clinics are run by doctors loyal to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction. The doctors, who also staff Gaza's public hospitals, are paid by the Abbas' Fatah-led government in the West Bank.

The Associated Press reported that the doctors cut back their hospital hours and began charging residents for expensive private visits to the clinics in response to Hamas' recent arrest of a Fatah-linked physician. Hamas spokesmen said that in defense of the public, the clinics can no longer operate, and the doctors will be fired if they do not fulfill their hospital obligations.

Also on Monday, Hamas announced that it would start enforcing a decade-old law that forbids the media from publishing stories that are deemed harmful to national unity and security, reported the Agence France-Presse.

The law was originally introduced by Abbas' predecessor, Yasser Arafat, but was never fully enforced. Implementing the law now will further enable Hamas to prevent the publication of reports that damage its image.

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