Hospitals in Gaza are running out of supplies including anaesthetic, while the only power plant is on the brink of shutdown, pushing the enclave to the verge of humanitarian collapse.
Israel has unleashed one of the heaviest bombardments of the tiny strip ever recorded, after the ruling Hamas militant group launched a deadly surprise attack in Israel on Saturday, that left more than 900 dead.
The Israeli government later announced a “total siege” on the 42-km long territory, vowing to cut off power, water, fuel and food to the more than 2 million people who live there. The sole remaining access from Egypt shut down Tuesday after Israeli airstrikes hit near the border crossing.
Humanitarian organisations, who have warned a total siege could violate international law, have unsuccessfully pleaded for the creation of corridors to get aid into Gaza.
Now, prominent British-Palestinian plastic surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta said Gaza’s largest hospital al-Shifa is already “at capacity ” and they are being forced to improvise. He said he had to clean a teenage girl with 70 per cent surface burns using regular soap because the hospital is out of chlorhexidine, an antiseptic.
“I’ve been in Gaza during the 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021 [wars] and this is the worst,” he told The Independent from Gaza City where he was helping the Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) organisation.
“The sheer number of wounded in the last 72 hours has completely overwhelmed the system. Al-Shiafa is at capacity.
“Now we can’t find things like external fixtures for the orthopaedics, plates, screws, we have run out of tracheal tubes for [children’s] sizes.
“Even anaesthetic medication is starting to run low,’ he added.
The United Nation’s World Health Organization said that supplies it had pre-positioned for seven hospitals in Gaza have already run out amid the sheer number of wounded.
The head of the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said surgical equipment, antibiotics, fuel and other supplies were running out at two hospitals it runs in Gaza.
Gaza, often labelled the most densely populated place on earth, is home to more than two million people, half of which are children, according to the UN.
It has already suffered 15 years of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which was imposed shortly after Hamas seized control of the strip in 2007.
This has strangled supplies before the conflict erupted. Palestinian medics told The Independent before the bombardment started the Gaza Strip was already missing half of the list of essential drugs.
Now a “total” siege could spark hunger, disease and people dying from their injuries.
“It will not contribute to peace and security,” said the Oxfam charity, warning it was a violation of international law. “Instead, it will further fan the flames of this crisis.”
It added that Gaza’s sole power plant, crucial for running essential services such as water and sanitation, was “on the brink of complete shutdown”.
“[This] will have dire consequences for hospitals and healthcare facilities that rely heavily on generators for vital medical equipment such as life-support systems,” Oxfam wrote, adding that nearly half a million people had restricted access to clean water.
On Tuesday morning as the situation worsens in Gaza and the airstrikes intensified Israeli military suggested Palestinian civilians leave Gaza via the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. They later revised the suggestion when it emerged Rafah closed because Israel had bombed it.
Egyptian officials are said to be talking with Israel and the US about declaring Rafah a “no fire zone” and setting up humanitarian corridors in Gaza to deliver aid. But so far no corridors have been established. A looming question is whether Israel will launch a ground assault into Gaza — which could have a devastating impact on civilians.
“We have nowhere to go, nowhere to run to,“ one desperate father-of-five told The independent.
On Tuesday, a large part of Gaza City's Rimal neighbourhood was reduced to rubble after warplanes bombarded it for hours the night before. Residents found buildings torn in half or totally demolished.
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