HAMAS have threatened to use force if Israel does not send ventilators to Gaza to treat coronavirus patients amid the global pandemic
The militant group’s leader Yahya Sinwar warned if the medical equipment is not brought to the Palestinian enclave they will “stop the breathing of six million Israelis”.
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Mr Sinwar made the fiery threat as he warned the organisation will “take them by force” as Gaza faces an outbreak of the killer virus.
The militant leader accused Israel of not releasing key medical equipment as Hamas imposed a quarantine for anyone crossing into the Gaza Strip.
He said: “When we decided to establish compulsory quarantine facilities for people returning to Gaza, we knew that it would be a difficult decision that would cause a lot of criticism against us.
“It’s our first line of defense. We can’t allow the epidemic into Gaza.”
Mr Sinwar added: “If ventilators are not brought into [Gaza], we’ll take them by force from Israel and stop the breathing of 6 million Israelis.”
Gaza confirmed its first cases of the coronavirus two weeks ago, and there are fears of the scale of a potential outbreak.
Two million people live in the enclave, which is just twice the size of Washington DC.
It is feared coronavirus would run rampant through the territory, which has been under blockade by Israel and Egypt for 13 years.
Hamas – the militant group who run the enclave – insist the threat is contained, but continue to call for the release of key medical supplies.
The barrier between Israel and Gaza is one of the most tense borders in the world, and regularly shots are exchanged amid ongoing tensions.
The Israeli defence minister has said they may not release aid to Gaza until the bodies of two soldiers are returned.
Hamas is holding the remains of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, which were captured when the two were killed during the 2014 war on the Strip.
And as the two sides go back and forth, Mr Sinwar said the remains would not be released until they have medical aid.
The militant leader made the comments via remote video chat to television and Hamas’s digital media platforms.
The address was his first public statement since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.
World Health Organisation officials have warned the majority of ventilators in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are already in use by patients with conditions unrelated to coronavirus.
Grald Rockenschaub, the head of the WHO’s mission to in Palestine, told The Times of Israel: “They are being used by people who have suffered heart attacks, strokes and other incidents requiring critical care
Israel currently has more than 7,500 cases and 43 deaths as the global confirmed cases from the pandemic surpassed one million.
Hamas has opened up 18 additional quarantine zones in clinics and hotels as it braces for a potential outbreak.
It has also banned weekly street markets, shut down cafes and mosques, and extended quarantines for anyone who crosses the border into the Gaza Strip.
Coronavirus testing kits are being shipped into the territory, but it is feared there is not enough to properly manage the pandemic.
Israeli authorities have said hundreds of more testing kits have been delivered by the World Health Organisation.
Protective equipment, medicines and disinfectant has also been sent into the Gaza Strip.
Israel is beginning to crackdown amid the virus, including declaring the entire city of Bnei Brak a “restricted zone” as the military was sent in.
The country is also attempting to beef up its supplies of ventilators, handing over requisition of medical equipment to its spy agency Mossad.
Mossad director Yossi Cohen reportedly heads a special command centre along with other security chiefs and the Health Ministry.
The agency has reportedly obtained information on the mass production of ventilators.
And the spooks announced they had obtained 500,000 testing kits last month.
However, they have declined to confirm the source of these key supplies.
It is reported they have been purchased from states which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.
Mossad sources have claimed spy agencies worldwide are waging a covert battle to get hold of medical supplies for their nations.
WHO chiefs have previously called for a 40 per cent boost in medical manufacturing to help meet the world’s health needs during the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, WHO director general Tedros Adhanom said everyone across the globe is in a “shared struggle to protect both lives and livelihoods”.
He said: “The best way for countries to end restrictions and ease their economic effects is to attack the virus, with the aggressive and comprehensive package of measures that we have spoken about many times before: find, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact.
“If countries rush to lift restrictions too quickly the virus could resurge, and the economic impact could be even more severe and prolonged.”
It comes as more than half the world’s population is sitting in some kind of lockdown to try and beat the bug.
The world’s economy faces being left in tatters, with bankers warning $4.1trillion may be wiped off the global markets before the pandemic is over.
Meanwhile, Britain suffered its deadliest day so far and the United States continues to be the epicentre of the outbreak as its case count nears 300,000.