“We have no power and no water,” warns Gaza physician Dr. Mona El-Farra

“We don’t have power at the moment. We don’t have water,” physician Dr. Mona El-Farra told The Electronic Intifada from Gaza today. Dr. El-Farra works with the Palestine Red Crescent Society and is the director of Gaza projects at the Middle East Children’s Alliance.

“We receive every day an increasing number of patients coming from the schools, people who took shelter in the schools or with their relatives,” she added.

In Gaza today, the bodies of at least twenty Palestinians were pulled from the rubble after an Israeli airstrike hit a United Nations school in Jabaliya refugee camp. Approximately 3,300 displaced people were taking refuge in the school. Among the victims were children “killed as they slept next to their parents on the floor of a classroom,” according to the UN agency UNRWA, which administers the school.

Later in the day, Israeli forces shelled an open market in the Shujaiya neighborhood of eastern Gaza City, the site of a grisly massacre last week, killing at least seventeen.

The Gaza Ministry of Health said Wednesday evening that “the total death toll had surpassed 1,360 and 7,677 injured. Of those, 130 were killed and 400 injured on Wednesday alone, as even the temporary Israeli ceasefire failed to slow the carnage,” Ma’an News Agency reported.

In a statement, the ministry’s director Dr. Medhat Abbas said that “this atrocity is barbarity personified.”

Crisis “imminent”

Israel has attacked hospitals, clinics, ambulances and medical workers since the onslaught began on 7 July.

On Monday, Israel bombed Gaza’s sole power plant, plunging Gaza into darkness and putting further strain on hospitals and clinics tending to the injured. The United Nations estimates that 240,000 Palestinians have been internally displaced.

Dr. Belal Dabour, a resident physician at al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, tweeted late Wednesday evening local time that patients critically injured in today’s attack on Shujaiya were still waiting for surgery. Hospital workers have had to line patients up in the hallways as triage rooms are beyond capacity, he stated:

Dr. Mona El-Farra told The Electronic Intifada today that the burden on hospitals and clinics is very serious as basic medicines are in short supply and the electricity crisis has made a humanitarian crisis “imminent.”

Along with patients needing treatment for wounds sustained during Israeli strikes, Dr. El-Farra said that there are patients suffering from “increasing numbers of infectious diseases like gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections and skin diseases” that are developing across Gaza, with barely any medications to treat patients.

 Listen to the full interview with Dr. Mona El-Farra via the audio player at the top of this page, or read the rush transcript below.

Doctors and nurses at al-Shifa Hospital are treating an extraordinary number of patients with little supplies amidst an electricity crisis.

Mohammed Talatene APA images

Transcript: Dr. Mona El-Farra

Nora Barrows-Friedman: Dr. Mona, can you tell us about the situation in Gaza right now, especially after the latest Israeli missile strikes overnight and the massacre at the Shujaiya open market earlier today?

Dr. Mona El-Farra: Yes, actually, this day in the morning, the first massacre happened when the Israelis attacked one of the schools in the Jabaliya refugee camp, where twenty at least were killed and tens were injured. I lost track of numbers, but for sure the killed were twenty.

And before that, there was heavy, heavy shelling for two or three hours, then this massacre happened. Then, in the middle of the day, at the Shujaiya market, when people felt safe that there was a humanitarian ceasefire, people went to shop for a few things. And then they were attacked again by missiles, by the Israeli army, and seventeen at least were killed, maybe 200 were injured, and a big, big fire stayed for maybe one hour, you could see the smoke from the other end of town. Two of the health workers, emergency health workers, died in that attack too, as well as one journalist.

The situation is really very, very bad. And we have a big problem at the moment at the hospitals and medical facilities, which are in shortage of medications because the burden is high. The main hospital in Gaza, al-Shifa hospital, is receiving immediately 200 cases, the injured with different sorts of injuries. It is a big burden, it was mass casualities with a lack of essential medication and supplies, that’s why there was an appeal on the radio when this happened asking people to go to the hospital to donate blood.

And we don’t have power at the moment. We don’t have water. And when we don’t have power, the generators at the hospitals will start to not function well. So an imminent humanitarian health problem is coming soon if this continues. For us, for me, working at the Red Crescent Society in the Gaza Strip, which is partnered with the Middle East Children’s Alliance, we receive every day an increasing number of patients coming from the schools, people who took shelter in the schools or with their relatives. There are very bad health conditions, and increasing numbers of infectious diseases like gastroenteritis, upper respiratory tract infections and skin diseases.

We are not used to this great number of patients daily, we receive between 200-250 patients coming and asking for health consultation at our center. Again, we have a diagnostic center, and the hospital, al-Shifa hospital, their equipment like the CT [scanner] has stopped working, so we receive cases at our center. Every day we receive an increasing number of injured who are in need for diagnostic procedure like the CT.

Today, I came across three cases coming for a CT. Three cases with head injuries. The first one, her name is Buthaina el-Izraia, she came to our diagnostic center with a head injury and many shrapnels all over her body besides the head injury.

And her son was next to her, this patient. She was accompanied by her son, who is a newly-graduated nurse. His name is Yousef el-Izraia, and he was crying and telling me, “My mother was watering her plants when the shrapnel hit her, and we have never ever been members of any political party or militant [group]. We are just normal people, ordinary civilians.”

This was the first case. The second story — a child, three years old, and the name of this child is “Anonymous number six.” He came with a head injury as well. And you understand why he was “anonymous” — that means the child left the whole family and they don’t recognize who is the child.

Another case, her name is Reem Ahmad, again with a head injury, from Nuseirat refugee camp, six years old. And again, she lost all the members of her family.

These stories are common already in Gaza, but it attracted my attention — a human being called “Anonymous number six.” Or a woman, a peaceful woman trying to plant her flowers, trying to normalize an abnormal life, and then the result is to be hit with a head injury. And I don’t know if they will make it or not. After they come to our center, they go back to the hospital to resume their treatment.

Another story — one of our staff, she is a nurse, her name is Afaf Hussein, and this morning I heard that her daughter was killed with her three grandchildren and two of her children. I tried to call her phone several times and she couldn’t answer the phone. Her daughter was one of our volunteers a few months ago in our center.

We are surrounded with death. We are surrounded with horror. We are surrounded with a lack of facilities and we try hard to help people, we try hard to help each other, but the burden is heavy and the attack is very serious, and this should stop now.

NBF: What does it mean for Palestinians in Gaza to be cut off from the outside world because of the electricity crisis, as well as being cut off from family members and loved ones and neighbors as the phone networks are going down?

ME: This is another disaster, because this is our lifeline to the outside world. For me, on a personal level, by the end of the day when I come home, I start writing. I feel that I am still alive. I still can convey the message. And not only that, we feel that maybe something worse is happening and Israel wants to hide this, to keep us isolated from the world, so nobody knows what crimes are going to happen next in Gaza.

It is frightening. It is frightening.


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).