Middle East

Gaza's health system 'near breaking point' amid backlash over deaths


Israel says its military has delivered eight trucks full of humanitarian aid and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. It comes as aid agencies report health services in Gaza are at 'breaking point'.

Israel says the military has delivered eight trucks full of humanitarian aid and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip, where Israeli troops firing from across the border have killed nearly 60 Palestinians at mass border protests.

Cogat, the military body for Palestinian civilian affairs, said it had transferred 53 tons of medical equipment to Gaza this week, including medical fluids, bandages and physical therapy treadmills. It says fuel will be distributed later.

The trucks entered Tuesday, as medical facilities in Gaza were struggling to treat hundreds of people wounded by Israeli fire the day before.

Tear bombs are thrown to Palestinian people gathering near the Gaza border with Israel on May 15, 2018.
Tear bombs are thrown to Palestinian people gathering near the Gaza border with Israel on May 15, 2018. (AAP)

Deadliest day of violence in seven weeks

The first funerals have taken place of the Palestinians killed by Israeli troops during Monday's demonstrations ahead of further planned protests.  

Monday was the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. Dozens of people were killed and 2700 were wounded.

The protests were directed at a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007.

Israel said it is defending its border and accuses Hamas of trying to carry out attacks under the cover of the protests.

Deadly clashes continue along Gaza border
Deadly clashes continue along Gaza border

Health system 'near breaking point'

The group Medical Aid for Palestinians called for the international community to provide immediate support for Gaza's health system to treat the wounded.

The organisation said the health system at Gaza's main hospital of Al Shifa is "near breaking point after receiving so many devastating and disabling injuries".

It said Monday's violence and subsequent protests had resulted in "more abdominal, chest and head wounds than in previous weeks".

The group said waiting times for critical surgeries have lengthened as medical teams run out of essential supplies, including "gauze, skin staples, abdominal sponges, vascular sutures and disposable gowns and drapes".

UN aid agencies warn of dwindling supplies

The World Health Organization said life-saving drugs, including antibiotics and adrenaline, are "urgently needed".

The WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said the supply of cancer drugs is "critically low" and the monthly supply of essential drugs is quickly being depleted.

Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said medical teams in Gaza are “are overwhelmed, dealing with hundreds of cases of injured, including women and children.”

“They are stretched to the limit and running out of essential medical supplies. He stressed that public hospitals in Gaza have less than a week of fuel reserves to continue their operations," he said.

Gaza’s main supply point for aid convoys, Kerem Shalom, was closed after being damaged.

Mr Laerke said the stop-start delivery of aid has not helped matters.

“It has been closed indefinitely following extensive damage to the Gaza side of this crossing by Palestinians on 11 May.

"However, Israeli authorities have indicated that this crossing will be opened for, ‘select humanitarian needs’ on a case-by-case basis and the day before yesterday they allowed seven trucks to enter Gaza and I understand that six of those trucks were carrying medical supplies.”

Palestinian people gather near the Gaza border with Israel on May 15, 2018.
Palestinian people gather near the Gaza border with Israel on May 15, 2018. (AAP)

Oxfam warns of worsening humanitarian situation

Aid agency Oxfam said restricted access to aid for nearly two million people, mostly refugees, in Gaza has resulted in large-scale suffering. 

Oxfam’s Country Director for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel Chris Eijkemans said Infrastructure and services have collapsed under Israel's 10-year blockade.

“The vital Karem Shalom crossing, one of the only entry points for goods in and out of Gaza, was damaged three days ago and is now closed, or opening for limited goods,” Mr Eijkemans said.

He said about 40 percent of Gaza residents are starving, unemployment levels are over 40 per cent and the number of displaced from the last war in 2014 stands at more than 23,500.

Mr Eijkemans said Oxfam is helping 258,000 people in Gaza, providing food and vital water and sanitation. But he warns those efforts won't be enough to deal the massive need of people effectively trapped in Gaza.

“If this continues, this could spark a further fuel shortage that would hit agricultural irrigation," Mr Eijkemans said.

"Oxfam is working to rehabilitate a number of irrigation wells in Gaza but we don’t have a Plan B at this stage. The knock-on inflation on food prices would hit poor families hard and quickly.”

Anger erupts at UN over deaths

Israeli and Palestinian diplomats at the United Nations have blamed each other for the violence on Monday which saw some 58 Palestinians killed.

The Palestinian envoy condemned what he called a "crime against humanity", while Israel criticised Hamas, who are in control of Gaza, of taking their own people hostage.

Israel blames Hamas for Gaza violence
Israel blames Hamas for Gaza violence

"We condemn in the most emphatic terms the odious massacre committed by Israel in the Gaza Strip," Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Danny Danon, the Israeli envoy to the UN, said Hamas had incited violence through their actions.

"They incite people to violence, place as many civilians as possible in the line of fire to maximise civilian casualties, then they blame Israel and come to the UN to complain. It is a deadly game they play at the expense of innocent children."

- with AAP

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