Gazans in hospital

Injured people wait for medical treatment after they were brought to Al Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Gaza on October 11, 2023.

(Photo: Mustafa Hassona/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Cease-Fire Calls Grow as Gaza Healthcare System Verges on Total Collapse

The International Committee of the Red Cross warned that as Israel's relentless airstrikes and blockade continue, Gaza hospitals "risk turning into morgues."

The Palestinian Ministry of Health warned Thursday that Gaza's medical system "has begun to collapse" as the combined impacts of Israel's total blockade and devastating bombing campaign leave the impoverished enclave's hospitals without sufficient resources to care for the growing flood of airstrike victims.

In a statement, the ministry said that intensive care unit (ICU) beds "have already been filled" even after they were expanded to cope with the rapid influx of patients, including many children. More than 6,200 people in Gaza have been injured by Israeli airstrikes since Saturday and more than 1,400 have been killed.

"The wounded who need an ICU bed now have no place to be admitted," the Palestinian Health Ministry said, noting that hospitals have been forced to place injured patients in corridors due to a lack of space.

Further straining Gaza's health system is Israel's total siege of the territory, which has cut off the supply of electricity, fuel, food, and other key supplies. On Wednesday, Gaza's lone power plant shut down after running out of fuel.

Adnan Abu Hasna, media adviser for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), told the Financial Times that hospitals are using generators, "but this is very dangerous because they can't operate them 24 hours a day."

"They also have limited supplies of fuel that will run out soon," he added. "Whole districts have been bombed and their residents displaced... we're talking about 500,000 people. There are some 250,000 in UNRWA schools and the rest sheltering in other locations. The situation is catastrophic."

Fabrizio Carboni, regional director for the Near and Middle East for the International Committee of the Red Cross, issued a stark warning about the consequences of widespread power loss in the besieged enclave, which is home to 2.3 million people.

"As Gaza loses power, hospitals lose power, putting newborns in incubators and elderly patients on oxygen at risk," Carboni said in a statement. "Kidney dialysis stops, and X-rays can't be taken. Without electricity, hospitals risk turning into morgues."

"Our teams are witnessing a level of destruction that may already exceed previous escalations."

The appalling and increasingly dire situation on the ground in Gaza has heightened calls for, at minimum, a temporary cease-fire to allow humanitarian aid to enter the occupied strip.

"We call for the international community to press for a temporary humanitarian cease-fire for 24 hours in Gaza to avert an impending major disaster," the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor wrote in a social media post on Thursday. "Gaza is running out of drinking water, electricity, and food supplies. Health sector is collapsing. Every minute counts."

The social justice group Right Livelihood also called for a cease-fire and denounced Israel's "indiscriminate airstrikes on residential buildings, schools, and hospitals across the Gaza Strip."

"We strongly condemn the crimes committed since October 7 and call on all parties to abide by international humanitarian law and international human rights law," the group added. "The deliberate targeting of civilians is illegal, inhumane, and immoral."

Israel has thus far provided no indication that it plans to ease its assault on Gaza any time soon. Over the past several days, Israel has amassed troops along its southern border structure in preparation for a large-scale ground invasion of Gaza, which observers warn will only exacerbate civilian suffering.

Israel has also pledged to not lift its devastating blockade of Gaza until Hamas frees all hostages.

With the siege in place and bombs continuing to fall for the sixth consecutive day, humanitarian workers say they're having an extremely difficult time operating in Gaza.

Doctors Without Borders, which is running a makeshift clinic in downtown Gaza City, said Thursday that members of its staff have been "unable to obtain safe passage to support Palestinian medical colleagues working day and night to treat the injured." The group said it has received reports from Gaza medical officials that they are running out of key supplies, including painkillers and anesthetics.

"People playing no role in the hostilities do not have a safe haven to go to," the group added. "Our teams are witnessing a level of destruction that may already exceed previous escalations."

Aid workers in Gaza have also accused Israeli forces of intentionally targeting medical personnel and facilities. At least 13 healthcare facilities in Gaza have been damaged by Israeli bombing, according to the World Health Organization.

The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that Israeli airstrikes killed four of its paramedics "in less than half an hour" on Wednesday "despite prior coordination."

"PRCS demands accountability for this war crime, urging immediate investigation and justice for the victims," the group said in a statement. "Targeting medical personnel is a grave breach to international humanitarian law and to humanity."

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