Bird flu detected at second site in Gaza

Palestinian officials confirmed an outbreak of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu at a second farm in the Gaza Strip on Friday, and Israel's foreign minister appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan for international assistance to the Palestinians to contain the disease.

In all, bird flu has been detected at two farms in the Gaza Strip, one near Gaza City and one near the southern town of Rafah on the border with Egypt, said Deputy Agriculture Minister Azzam Tubaili.

Gaza chicken farmers planned a protest later Friday, after government officials told them they would not be compensated for culled birds. The two affected farms have a total of 80,000 chickens.

"They (the farmers) are preventing the culling because they want compensation before they let us do this," Tubaili said. "This is causing confusion. Any second of delay will really make a difference."

Tubaili said samples had been sent to Israeli labs to check for bird flu. He said Israel has sent the Palestinians poison for killing the chickens.

On Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz to express Israel's concern over the ability of the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority to stop the spread of the flu. On Friday, Livni also appealed to Annan for help, according to a Foreign Ministry statement.

Israel fears that without international involvement, the Palestinian Authority would not take the immediate steps needed to limit the flu's spread.

Bird flu was discovered in Israeli villages not far from the Gaza Strip last week. Almost 1 million birds have been culled in Israel. An outbreak of avian flu was disclosed in Gaza on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Israel's Defense Ministry granted permission for the Palestinians to bring poison into Gaza to cull infected chickens, security officials said, reports the AP.


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