Gaza hospitals struggle to treat injured in latest Israeli airstrikes

As Israeli assaults kill dozens of Palestinians, doctors say they don’t have what they need to help treat the wounded

Dr. Ayman al-Sahbani rushed to attend to eight people, including two children, in the emergency ward of Al-Shifa hospital. With most suffering from shrapnel wounds, the injured came to Gaza's primary and largest hospital after an Israeli airstrike hit eastern Gaza City.

"Thank [God] their injuries are minor," Sahbani, the head of the hospital's emergency services, told Al Jazeera.

As Israel continues to pound Gaza with airstrikes — carrying out 50 bombings overnight Monday and more throughout the day on Tuesday — Sahbani expressed concern about the capacity of the territory's hospitals to attend to the many injured.

As of late Tuesday, at least 27 Palestinians had been killed in the Israeli bombardment. More than 130 others were wounded, according to Palestinian officials.

All 12 beds in the hospital's intensive care unit were occupied on Tuesday.

"Most of those people here have medical referrals and were supposed to be receiving treatment at outside hospitals," Sahbani said.

"Now we can't get them out, and we can’t find a space for new patients if the airstrikes intensify."

He added that the closure of smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt — the main lifeline through which medical supplies were brought into Gaza during Israel's last major offensive, in November 2012 — and the closure of the Rafah border crossing have exacerbated the problem.

"[In 2012] we were sending critical patients day by day to Egyptian hospitals, aid was coming from Arab and other solidarity groups, foreign doctors were coming to help us, fuel was available," Sahbani said.

"All that has gone."

Gaza also suffers from a shortage of medicine and medical supplies, Gaza's Health Ministry spokesman, Ashraf al-Qedra, told Al Jazeera. Gaza is completely missing about 30 percent of essential drugs, while 15 percent of the remainder is expected to be exhausted within days of an Israeli assault, he said.

"The medical services are in a very critical situation that we have never reached during the [Egyptian-Israeli] siege," Qedra said, adding that the ministry is running "extremely short" on items like gloves, urine catheters and other medical equipment.

Qedra said the ministry has appealed to the Palestinian consensus government, which was formed last month, to help.

"We are surprised that the government has not reacted so far to rescue the health care system," he said.

The persistent fuel crisis in Gaza, which leads to frequent electricity cuts, also puts patients at risk, especially those who rely on incubators and dialysis machines, and are admitted to emergency departments.

"In the past, we used to have a crisis in one field, not crises on all levels like today," Sahbani said.

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