Food poisoning at a camp for displaced residents of Mosul has made more than 700 people sick, with hundreds hospitalized, Iraqi officials said Tuesday. The incident at the Hassan Sham U2 camp, about 13 miles east of Mosul, has become part of the ongoing dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Saudi media accused a Qatari charity of supplying tainted food to the residents of the desert camp. Iraqi Health Minister Adila Hamoud told the AP that 752 people in the camp became ill following a Monday night iftar—the meal breaking the dawn-to-dusk fast by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. At least 300 people remain in serious condition, he said. Various reports have put the number of related deaths between zero and three.
Amira Abdulhaliq of the UNHCR said it was unclear when the meals had become contaminated, whether it was during preparation, packaging, transportation, or distribution. "So far, we have received around 800 cases. Around 200 have been transported to the hospitals in Irbil," she said. Irbil Gov. Nawzad Hadi said the food was prepared in an Irbil restaurant by a local NGO, Ain el Muhtajeen, and funded by a Qatari charity known as RAF. In Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a recent campaign to isolate Qatar, state media quickly seized on the issue with coverage that implied Qatar was poisoning refugees deliberately. The Hassan Sham U2 camp houses thousands who have fled their homes in and around Mosul after a US-backed Iraqi offensive was launched in October to dislodge the Islamic State group. (Read more Iraq stories.)