Trauma surgeons and other medical staff rush to try to save a woundeed Palestinian man's life.

Trauma surgeons treat an injured man after Israeli bombardment, at the Kuwaiti hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on October 21, 2023

(Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images)

'As a Human Being, I Beg': Doctors Say Cease-Fire in Gaza Only Way to Save Countless Lives

Fresh demands for a major increase in humanitarian aid and an end to the bombing came as Gaza's only cancer hospital shut down due to a lack of fuel.

As the World Health Organization warns of an "imminent public health catastrophe" in Gaza amid Israeli attacks on medical workers and infrastructure, doctors and other frontline medics said Wednesday that only an immediate cease-fire would give them a fighting chance to save countless lives.

Responding Wednesday to the shutdown of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital—Gaza's only cancer treatment center—due to lack of fuel and damage from Israeli airstrikes, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that "no words can describe our concern for the patients who have just lost the only possibility to receive lifesaving cancer treatment or palliative care."

Tedros added: "I urge and I plead—for full medical and fuel aid access NOW! The more we wait, the more we put these fragile lives at risk."

The WHO chief's plea came a day after Christian Lindmeier, a spokesperson for the Geneva-based United Nations agency, warned that "an imminent public health catastrophe... looms with the mass displacement, the overcrowding, the damage to water and sanitation infrastructure."

Meanwhile, James Elder, a spokesperson for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), said Tuesday that "child deaths due to dehydration, particularly infant deaths due to dehydration, are a growing threat."

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) called Gaza a "graveyard" for children, more than 3,600 of whom have been killed by Israeli bombardment, with another 1,000 minors reported missing, according to Palestinian and other officials.

Israeli forces have attacked numerous hospitals, clinics, ambulances, and medical workers, including the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital and al-Hilu Hospital. The Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday that the bombardment that damaged al-Hilu "endangers the lives of women in the maternity wards and medical staff."

According to an "urgent call for protecting healthcare workers in Gaza" published Tuesday in the British medical journal The Lancet, Israeli forces have attacked 57 medical facilities since launching the war on Gaza on October 7, killing 73 workers—including doctors, nurses, paramedics, and others—as of October 24. Sixteen of the medical personnel were killed while on duty.

As Israel's bombardment of Gaza exacts a heavy toll on overwhelmed medical workers and infrastructure in the besieged strip, frontline medics like Dr. Noureddein al-Khateeb—a 38-year-old resident doctor in the emergency department at the Nasser Medical Center in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis—say they are living "in a constant state of threat and fear."

"It's constant fear on top of the exhaustion we're experiencing," al-Khateeb toldThe New Humanitarian on Wednesday. "But one shouldn't think of that too much. I can't. If I do, I won't get any work done."

Al-Khateeb added that "we're also afraid for our families' safety, but what can we do?"

Dr. Mohamed Abu Mousa, a radiologist at Nasser, said one of the few trips he's made outside the hospital since Israeli bombardment began was to bury his 7-year-old son after he was killed in an October 15 Israeli airstrike on their family home.

"We don't have the luxury of pausing to grieve," he told The New Humanitarian. "The heartache is immense, but the wounded are endless. We have to keep going."

Conditions are dire inside Gaza's hospitals, which are running out of or low on fuel, medicines, equipment, and other essential services and supplies.

"We're operating on children without anesthetics," Léo Cans, who heads the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) mission in Palestine, toldCNN Tuesday. "We don't have morphine for them."

On Wednesday, MSF international president Dr. Christos Christou said in a video published on social media that "we've seen and heard the stories of the hell being unleashed on Gaza" as "helpless people are being subjected to horrific bombing" and "families have nowhere to run or hide."

Christou continued:

So many people need help. What medical staff can do is just a drop in the ocean compared to the immense needs. Our teams working in Gaza are exhausted and terrified. Our staff tell us that pregnant women can't get to hospitals to deliver. People are stuck under the rubble of shelled-out buildings. Children are having limbs amputated while lying on the floor.

"An immediate cease-fire is the only way the people of Gaza can find safety and the essential aid they urgently need," Christou asserted. "The bombing, the all-out assault, needs to stop now... As a human being, I beg—stop the bombing and allow people in Gaza to live."

The Gaza Health Ministry said Wednesday afternoon that at least 8,796 Palestinians—including nearly 2,300 women and over 3,600 children—have been killed in Israeli attacks, while around 23,000 other people have been injured.

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