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Gaza Hospitals Can’t Cope

Medical crews are unable to cope with the havoc wrought on Gaza by Israel’s heavy military.

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Gaza – As Israeli troops push deeper into Gaza, the intense artillery shelling is shaking all corners of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabalyia. As tank shells hit one family, killing three sleeping children, hundreds of families are fleeing their homes in the dark, under a barrage of missiles from over head.

At Kamal Adwan hospital – around midnight – the 24-hour shift for nurses is more intense than ever. Emergency room and hospital doctors run from case to case, and specialized doctors are constantly called in. Some stay in the hospital, not getting a chance to go home and break their fast or even sleep, during this horrific Ramadan for everyone.

Kamal Adwan hospital is filled to bursting with all types of cases – dismembered human body parts and limbs, and burns to all parts of the body, including bad facial burns on a dead young girl whose two brothers were also killed by an Israeli tank shell while they slept in their bedrooms at Al Nada residential tower. Ambulance crews had to run to dig them out of the rubble.

“It is a girl, not a boy, her name is Walaa,” says one of the ambulance crew members.

11-year-old Ahmed Musallam is one of the victims. His face is blackened by burns and smoke. Next to him is his sister Walaa, 12 years old, and brother Mohammed, 14 years old; they are all wrapped in white burial shrouds.

After the first 12 days of the attack, medical crews are unable to cope with the havoc wrought on Gaza by Israel’s heavy military. The death toll has now reached 352, with over 2,600 people injured, the majority of whom are civilians, according to United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs. Among the dead are 70 children. At this level of pressure, the hospital staff is exhausted and unable to cope with massive numbers and types of injuries constantly coming in.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health warns that the human and health crisis will worsen still, soon, due to a shortage of medications and medical supplies needed to treat all the patients coming in during the ongoing Israeli offensive, says Deputy Health Minister Dr. Yousef Abuelresh.

In front of Shifa hospital, ambulance sirens call, and more dead and critically injured bodies arrive, as well as ambulance crews bringing bags of body parts to be matched up and identified. All of this is the gruesome result of Israeli air force fighter jets, artillery shelling and navy bombardment.

Abuelresh says stocks of medications and medical supplies are almost totally gone, and some surgical interventions had to be stopped as a result of a lack of vital supplies.

The health ministry announced that constant power cuts are disrupting the functions of life-support machines, explaining why several pieces of equipment are broken and useless.

In the far north of the Gaza Strip, Israeli tank shells hit the administrative department of Beit Hanoun hospital, meaning the victims’ only option is now to run to Kamal Adwan hospital now serving Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahiya and Jabalyia.

But Kamal Adwan hospital is now facing major hurdles, where the main electricity generator is broken and, because of Gaza’s siege, spare parts are unavailable.

Doctors at Kamal Adwan hospital say they have not seen electricity for 48 hours. One result of this specifically affects the dead: Hospitals that have received hundreds of cases need cold morgues to keep the bodies of the dead until family members and friends are able to get there to say goodbye and take the dead back to their besieged homes and prepare for burial.

In the event that the second generator stops, the hospital operation room will no longer be able to function. “Then it will be too late to act,” says the director of the hospital.

Further south in the Gaza Strip, the situation is no different. Nasser Hospital – serving over 200,000 people – is having long power cuts too. Life-support machines are damaged and voltage coming from back-up generators is unreliable, again due to damage done to electricity lines by Israeli bombing.

CT and X-ray scanners in the orthopedic department are all broken and the hospital is left with no alternatives. Hospitals nearby can’t receive cases from Nasser Hospital: Gaza European Hospital’s CT is also broken, in addition to several essential machines in ICU, according to Dr. Abuelresh.

“Even in a hospital, patients are not safe and secure,” says Mohammed Al Jamal, member of the Palestinian Network of Human Rights Defenders. “Hospitals are supposed to be protected places, under international laws, but those who are injured feel very unsafe.”

The Palestinian health ministry calls on all international groups to protect ambulance crews and medical workers. Gaza European Hospital has sustained damages to its ICU room roof, courtesy of an Israeli air strike.

In a separate incident, Al-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital in east Gaza city came under air strikes for a second time, forcing staff members to evacuate patients outside into the dark night, surrounded by bombs, before the hospital was totally destroyed.

The attacks on these health facilities have received international condemnation from UN and Amnesty International. But Israeli authorities have provided no response.

“Instead of targeting medical facilities in violation of international laws, Israeli forces must protect medics and patients and ensure that wounded people can safely reach medical facilities in Gaza and, when necessary, outside the Gaza Strip,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

Al Jamal says, after all, that Gaza is essentially occupied – blockaded by land, sea and air – and it’s the obligation of the international community to put an end to such crimes and support Gaza’s hospitals and population.

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