Israeli occupation forces killed two protesters in Gaza on Friday, both of them children, according to Al Mezan, a human rights group in the territory.
The deaths bring to three the number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the week. Abdallah Faisal Tawalbeh, 21, was shot dead by soldiers in the northern West Bank on Monday.
On Friday, Hasan Iyad Abd al-Fattah Shalabi, 14, died after he was shot in the chest while 60 meters from the boundary fence with Israel in Khan Younis, southern Gaza.
Hamza Muhammad Rushdi Ishtaiwi, 17, was fatally shot in the neck when he was 50 meters from the fence east of Gaza City. A photo of the slain teen circulated on social media after his death:
The boys killed in Gaza on Friday are the fourth and fifth Palestinian child fatalities at the hands of Israeli forces so far this year.
Thirty-eight children are among the 188 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the Great March of Return protests that were launched on 30 March last year.
Ahmad Ghazi Abbas Abu Jabal, 30, died on Sunday from injuries sustained during protests along Gaza’s northern boundary the previous week.
During Friday’s protests Israeli forces injured more than 100 Palestinians, including 43 children, five women and a paramedic, according to Al Mezan.
Nearly two dozen were injured by live fire during the protests, while nearly 50 people were hit directly with tear gas projectiles, critically wounding one.
More than 7,600 Palestinians have been injured by live fire during the protests since their launch.
Healthcare system in crisis
While Gaza’s healthcare system has been in chronic crisis for years, it has become acute as hospitals struggle to cope with the staggering number of protest casualties.
Israeli military officials have warned lawmakers that Gaza’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse, making it “difficult for the Israeli army to fight in the Strip for long” in any future military confrontation before “intense international intervention,” the Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported this week.
Israel’s top leadership have been informed by an international medical organization that “around 6,000 people with bullet wounds are still awaiting urgent operations,” according to Haaretz.
“Most of the wounded are not receiving proper medical care and a quarter have developed bone infections that if untreated will lead to amputations. At this point there is no agency that could treat those thousands of people,” the paper added.
There are not enough doctors in Gaza as physicians who can leave the territory have emigrated, the report states, while hospitals lack basic medicines.
Overburdened facilities have prioritized treating mass casualties from protests and “patients with cancer, diabetes or dialysis needs … are simply being sent home.”
Gaza patients denied permission to travel
Meanwhile, Israel continues to deny or delay permission to medical patients to travel outside Gaza for treatment.
Israeli authorities have allowed themselves “exceedingly long processing times” when evaluating applications from Palestinians in Gaza seeking to enter Israel or the West Bank, according to rights groups.
The directive under which COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, operates allows 23 business days to process applications from medical patients; 50 business days for applications from Palestinians who wish to visit a seriously ill relative or attend a first degree relative’s wedding; and 70 business days for applications from those in Gaza who wish to study abroad.
Despite these lengthy processing timeframes, COGAT “frequently fails to answer permit applications within the times stipulated in the directive, and often doesn’t respond to applications at all,” according to Gisha, a group that monitors Israel’s closure of Gaza.
One of those affected by Israel’s “draconian” policy is Atia Darwish, a photojournalist who was hit in the left eye with a tear gas canister while covering protests in Gaza last December.
The injury caused “multiple facial fractures and severe bleeding at the back of his eye, putting his sight at risk,” according to the World Health Organization.
“He had surgery to remove shrapnel from the wound, fix his lower jaw and replace fragmented bones in his face with metal plates.”
“Not an exception”
But Darwish requires further specialized care and his vision remains impaired.
He received a referral for treatment at St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem but his travel application was still under Israeli review by the time his appointment date arrived.
“His case is not an exception,” the World Health Organization stated.
“Of 435 permit applications to Israeli authorities by those injured during the Great March of Return demonstrations, only 19 percent have been approved. Those unable to access the health care they need face a higher risk of complications and poorer health outcomes.”
St. John Eye Hospital is one of six health facilities in occupied East Jerusalem affected by $25 million in aid cuts from the Trump administration in Washington.
The White House cut half a billion dollars in aid to Palestinians last year, further raising fears over the fate of the Palestinian healthcare system.