On Wednesday, the World Health Organization stated that only 13 hospitals – out of 36, before Israel’s genocidal attacks – are partially functioning. Two hospitals are “minimally functioning,” the WHO assessed, leaving 21 completely out of service.
One of the partially-functioning hospitals is the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis, in the south, which is stretched beyond its capacity. The hospital’s immediate vicinity has been repeatedly bombed.
As Israeli attacks “intensify near the hospital, ambulances, patients, staff and WHO and partners will be unable to reach the complex, and this key hospital will quickly become barely functional,” warned Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, a WHO official.
“This scenario was witnessed all too often in the north. Gaza can not afford to lose any more hospitals,” Peeperkorn added.Dr. Ahmed Moghrabi, the head of plastic surgery at Nasser, described to Al Jazeera on 25 December the exhausting psychological and physical toll that Israel’s relentless attacks are having on healthcare workers. According to the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza, hospital occupancy rates are now more than 200 percent in inpatient departments, and 250 percent in intensive care units.
More than 100 ambulances have been destroyed, the health ministry reports.The WHO said it was “extremely concerned about the unbearable strain that escalating hostilities are putting on the few hospitals across Gaza that remain open – with most of the health system decimated and brought to its knees.” Field hospitals have been established by local and international healthcare teams, providing basic services to areas that have been completely depleted of medical support. However such centers are by no means adequate replacements for functioning, stocked and safe hospitals.
One physician at a field hospital, set up inside a school in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, only has gauze and disinfectant for treating patients, according to Reuters.
Patients, he explained, are suffering from infections due to a lack of sterilization and sanitizing equipment.
Serial targeting of Al-Amal Hospital
On Thursday, Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, was targeted for the fifth time in less than a week.The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) is headquartered at Al-Amal Hospital.
A video shows PRCS staff receiving wounded persons after Israel bombarded residential apartments adjacent to the hospital grounds on Thursday morning.The medical service stated on Thursday that Israeli forces had targeted “the upper floors of the society’s headquarters” with artillery shelling the day before, leading to a number of injuries of some of the 14,000 displaced persons seeking shelter inside the hospital campus.
The PRCS added that the Israeli shelling also damaged the radio communication network, “the only means of communication” the service has left, which now “poses a great challenge for emergency crews in reaching the wounded and sick.”The intensification of Israel’s bombardment in the vicinity of the Al-Amal Hospital, the medical service warns, “may be a prelude to targeting it directly.”
On 24 December, an Israeli sniper drone targeted and killed a 13-year-old boy while he was playing with his cousins inside a room at the PRCS facility at Al-Amal Hospital.On 25 December, PRCS ambulance teams in Khan Younis came under Israeli artillery shelling while recovering the bodies of several people. That same day, medical workers say they were forced to evacuate the PRCS ambulance center in Jabaliya refugee camp after Israeli forces “raided the building and destroyed the ambulances.” More than 300 Palestinian health personnel have been killed in Israeli attacks since 7 October.
Israel abducts, tortures physicians
Meanwhile, the Israeli army has detained around 100 health personnel, according to the Palestinian health ministry, since 7 October.
Doctors, medical workers and hospital directors are being held “in harsh conditions of torture, starvation and exposure to extreme cold,” the ministry stated.The director of Gaza City’s al-Shifa hospital, Muhammad Abu Salmiya, was abducted and detained by Israeli forces in November.
On Wednesday, Francesca Albanese, the UN’s special rapporteur for the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, excoriated Israel over the destruction of hospitals and the kidnapping and torturing of medical personnel.The Palestine Red Crescent Society reports that Israeli forces are still detaining eight of its staff members, who were arrested more than a week ago. They were taken to “an unknown destination, and their fate is not known yet,” the PRCS stated on Thursday.
Awni Khattab, the director of the PRCS ambulance center in Khan Younis, was taken and detained by Israeli forces more than a month ago while he was transferring injured patients from al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City to the southern Gaza Strip.“We urge the international community to exert pressure on the occupation authorities for the immediate release of our teams and to ensure their protection,” the PRCS stated on 23 December.