Gaza is becoming 'unfit for human life', say leading aid organisations

Gaza is becoming 'unfit for human life', say leading aid organisations
Gaza's health workers are operating in dire conditions and dealing with 'mass casualties' on a scale beyond any previous thresholds, leading NGOs said.
4 min read
05 April, 2024
Israel's six-month long war on Gaza has made the territory uninhabitable with the majority of the 2.3 million population displaced [GETTY]

The number of casualties in Gaza is beyond the realms that any "mass casualty protocol" in the world could handle, international humanitarians and medical workers warned on Thursday.

Israel's war has caused a catastrophic humanitarian situation , rendering conditions nearly "unfit for human life", and inflicted complex injuries on Gaza's population, leaving experienced medical workers and humanitarians in shock.

Paediatrician Dr Tanya Haj-Hassan was part of a Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) team on a two-week mission at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir al Balah in central Gaza.

"I saw children, the elderly, and I’m not just talking about what is being referred to as a collateral damage of aerial bombardment," the doctor said.

"I'm talking about direct sniper shooting of children in the head, of elderly people," the doctor said, describing the shootings not as an anomaly but a "consistent pattern".

At least 33,037 Palestinians have been killed and 75,668 injured since the start of the war in October. Gaza's health ministry says it believes that 6,000 people are missing under rubble, and that its figures only incorporate deaths registered at hospitals.

Aid workers and medics in Gaza have said the true death toll is likely to be far higher.

Dr. Haj-Hassan's remarks were made during a press briefing intended to draw attention to the dire situation in the Palestinian enclave, including leading international non-governmental organizations such as Oxfam, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children, and Doctors of the World.

The humanitarians described the dreadful conditions experienced by healthcare workers in Gaza, who, they said, have been arrested, killed, and tortured by Israeli forces in a "systemic" targeting that also included civilians.

They stated that they had not received reassurances from Israel regarding the safety of humanitarians in Gaza, following the global outrage triggered by the killing of seven aid workers from the food charity World Central Kitchen, six of whom were foreign nationals, in an an Israeli strike on Monday.

The groups relayed the urgent need for a ceasefire and renewed calls for countries to end arms sales to Israel, which includes the US, UK, Australia, Spain and Denmark.

This follows calls made in January, which urged Israel's allies to cease exports of arms and military equipment supporting Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has devastated civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, mosques, and schools across the tiny enclave.

Dr Haj-Hassan, an experienced intensive care physician, said the scale of injuries she witnessed during her time at the hospital was "very hard to stomach".

She saw children, parents, and grandparents "burned beyond recognition" and "dismembered".

Dr Haj-Hassan said medics were operating under "unimaginable working conditions" dealing with "mass casualties that no mass casualty protocol in the world could cope with".

Israel has detained and disappeared scores of medical workers, journalists, and aid workers, and the army accuses medical staff of working with Hamas if they have treated a wounded fighter, Dr Haj-Hassan said.

Hundreds of men have been arrested and disappeared as part of Israeli military's offensive in Gaza, with testimonies from those released detailing horrific torture and abuse by Israeli authorities.

During Israel's two-week siege on Gaza’s largest medical complex, Al-Shifa hospital, the army said it detained 900 people, accusing them of being Hamas or Islamic Jihad militants.

Gaza’s government media office said Israeli forces had killed 400 Palestinians during the siege, which trapped some 6,000 people inside without water or food for days and rendered the hospital non-functional.

Speaking during the online press conference, MSF France president Isabelle Defourny said that it was no longer just about letting more aid into the war-torn Strip, but about stopping the war.

"What military objective can justify turning a 700-bed hospital into dust?" Defourny said, referencing the destruction of Al-Shifa hospital.

"Gaza is progressively being made unfit for human life," she said, adding that Israel's control over life-saving aid and destruction of humanitarian infrastructure has pushed Gaza "past the threshold of absolute horror".

Over half of Gaza's population have been forced into the southern city of Rafah. The border city has become a vital humanitarian hub and is the only Gazan city not yet invaded. Despite warnings of mass civilian casualties, Israel has repeatedly stressed its troops will invade, in keeping with its war objectives to eliminate Hamas.