Skip to main content

Is Israel deliberately targeting Gaza's healthcare system?

As Israel targets Gaza's healthcare system, medical workers in Palestine are making their last stand
2 min read
20 October, 2023
Gaza's hospitals are breathing their last breath. Israeli airstrikes have set their sights on Gaza's healthcare infrastructure and ambulances and paramedics have been targeted. Overcrowded and under-staffed, the situation on the ground is dire.

Israel's bombardment on Gaza has exacerbated an already dire healthcare crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Due to critical fuel shortages, three hospitals in Gaza were forced to close on Thursday, with an additional 25 hospitals sustaining partial damage due to Israeli airstrikes, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.

Speaking to The New Arab, Medhat Abbas from the Gaza Ministry of Health explained that efforts to rescue the wounded from bombed homes and buildings have been impeded by Israeli forces through the targeting of ambulances and the destruction of roads leading to hospitals.

Live Story

Medhat also added that patients with kidney failure have also been forced to relocate to the south due to the threats from Israeli bombs, "This has put additional strain on the dialysis machines and capacity of hospitals in the south. We now need to operate around the clock."

The Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City was bombed by an Israeli strike on Tuesday evening, killing more than 500 Palestinians.

Prior to the explosion, the Al-Ahli hospital had reportedly received a warning from Israeli forces, urging evacuation. 

In a press release issued on Tuesday 17 October, Médecins sans frontières (MSF) called out Israel's aggression and condemned the loss of life in Gaza, "People have been killed while being forced to move, looking for safety. People are trapped, unable to escape, with absolutely nowhere safe to go," the statement read.

To date, the number of casualties in Gaza from Israeli aggression is 3,785 Palestinians, including 1,524 children. Another 12,493 others have been wounded, according to the Ministry of Health figures. 

The spokesperson of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Hisham Muhanna, told The New Arab that the healthcare system in Gaza is on its knees.

"Hospitals going out of service means death. Death for babies in paediatric incubators. Death of patients from kidney failures. Death of patients in ICU," Hisham urged. 

Hisham explained that Gaza's hospitals suffer from a huge shortage of essential medicines such as anaesthetics, hospital beds, and fuel for keeping the hospital running.

He called on the international community to grant the ICRC the protection they need in order to be able to help people in Gaza. “Neither we nor any of the humanitarian organizations working in Gaza are secured, this makes our job harder,” he said. 

The Ministry of Interior in the Gaza Strip issued a warning on Monday of an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe due to over 1,000 bodies of victims of Israeli airstrikes beneath the rubble of destroyed homes.

"On the 10th day of the ongoing Israeli barbaric aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip, we warn of a humanitarian and environmental disaster because of the presence of more than 1,000 martyrs' bodies beneath the ruins of the destroyed houses."

Gaza's Ministry of Health reported that 44 of its personnel lost their lives in the Israeli airstrikes and an additional 70 sustained injuries. Through its Facebook page, the Ministry issued a call for medical graduates to volunteer at local hospitals.

Film, TV & Music
Live Story

Hospitals in Gaza are at an overcapacity rate of 150%, and patients are being treated on the floors and in the hallways.

The Israeli army asked more than one million Palestinians to evacuate their homes in southern Gaza to the south, amid reports of an imminent ground invasion. This caused a huge pressure on the infrastructure in the south.

The spokesperson of UNRWA in Gaza Adnan Abu Hasna told The New Arab that thousands are currently sheltering at UNRWA schools everywhere in Gaza, with very critical circumstances due to the lack of essential needs such as electricity and water.

“We are unable to provide people in schools with basic needs, the shortage of water is causing major hygiene-related issues,” Abu Hasna added.

The UNRWA warned on Thursday 19 October that two million Palestinians in Gaza are running out of water: “It has become a matter of life and death. It is a must; fuel needs to be delivered now into Gaza to make water available for two million people,” said Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner-General.

On Wednesday 18 October, the United States exercised its veto power to block a UN Security Council resolution that aimed to establish "humanitarian pauses" for the delivery of critical aid to the millions of people in Gaza.

The UN Security Council's inability to take a public stance on the Israel-Gaza conflict came after a Russian-supported draft was rejected on Monday evening.

Ibrahim Mattar, a healthcare professional at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, said that the situation in the hospital is too awful to be described.

He noted that patients are forced to sleep on the floor due to the insufficient number of beds. Additionally, outside the hospital, evacuees seeking shelter have resorted to sleeping there.

Live Story

“With every airstrike in Gaza, we have at least five people with critical wounds that need to stay at the ICU, while we have less than 25 beds at the hospital,” Mattar said.

Mattar mentioned that a significant portion of the injuries being admitted to hospitals exhibit severe internal bleeding, burns on the skin, and cases of individuals experiencing suffocation due to inhaling toxic gases.

Mattar has not been home since the beginning of the Israeli war on Gaza more than 10 days ago. “It’s so hard to work under such huge pressure, especially since I have beloved ones in Gaza that I also want to make sure they are still alive”.

Abeer Ayyoub is a freelance journalist based in Amman

Follow her on Twitter: @abeerayyoub