Hospitals in Gaza, already facing a crippling shortage of medical supplies and equipment, are struggling to cope with the rising number of casualities, many of them civilians. Television footage shows every inch of space – even the floors – in certain hospitals being used for the treatment emergency cases. In one scene, medics are seen pumping the chest of a man lying on the floor in between two beds.
It doesn’t help that the earlier siege had blocked essential medical supplies into Gaza. National Public Radio asked United Nations Relief and Works Agency rep Chris Gunness how Gaza’s hospitals were coping:
Very, very badly. Because, don’t forget, in the months that preceded this military operation, the hospitals in Gaza and actually at many aid organizations were starved of essential life-saving drugs. So, even without this offensive, they were stretched to breaking point. Now, with the number of people coming into these hospitals, they are stretched frankly to breaking point. And reports in the hospitals say that basically, if you are in a life threatening condition you may be seen, but if your foot has been blown off, or you’ve lost a limb and you’re not going to die, then it’s most unlikely that you will actually be seen…
Well, the onslaught continues. I don’t know if you will have heard or seen the pictures overnight from Gaza, but we’ve got very large scale bombardments of areas, you know, the most densely populated – one of the most densely populated parts of this planet. And you know, it’s fine for politicians in Israel and elsewhere to say well, we’re doing what we can to limit civilian casualties, but imagine if someone decided there would be an aerial bombardment of say, Manhattan, or any inner city in America. And someone said, oh and by the way we’re trying very hard to limit civilian casualties. Most Americans I know would simply laugh and say that’s absurd. Well, that’s the situation we’re facing in Gaza. There is this bombardment and we get this rhetorical promise to try and keep civilians safe, but frankly it’s very difficult to make any sense of that, given the scale of the bombardment in this very densely populated part of the world.
Canadian human rights activist Eva Bartlett reports live from Gaza:
In the haze of dust and smoke from the latest F-16 strike, a family self-evacuates. The dispatcher at the Jabaliya Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) receives call after call from terrified residents fleeing their homes. It’s a new year, a new Nakba, and an old scene; Israel is bombarding Gaza once again and the world is standing idly by, sitting on a fence very different from the electrified border fence encaging Gaza, or the separation wall dividing and ghettoizing the West Bank. The world sits on the fence, justifying Israel’s massacre of a civilian population already dying from the siege.
We are four ambulances out tonight, versus two last night. The ambulances weave nimbly along blacked-out streets of a manufactured ghost town — like the streets all over Gaza — dodging fresh piles of rubble,
It’s absolutely impossible, unbelievable, it’s a massacre. “They know no limits now,” the medics report. “They are going crazy.”
We pass shells of houses, mosques, schools and shops, and see streams of panicked residents fleeing for their lives. Many more began to flee this morning after yet another night of bombardment on and around their houses. I saw the remains of rubble. This morning when Israel dropped the flyers announcing their intention to bomb the northern regions in collective punishment, residents believed it. The lights in Jabaliya’s PRCS stations are out, the power has just cut. In the dark, and cold, the sounds of explosions outside are more pronounced.
Acrid smoke from the shelling poisons the air. The feeling of being utterly surrounded by war planes, tanks, bulldozers and warships increases as news comes of the latest attack around Gaza: an orphanage in Gaza City, near the Palestine Mosque, with whispers that the holy place is next, marking at least 10 mosques destroyed. The number of dead and injured from the attack on the Ibrahim al-Makadma Mosque today is 11 and 50 respectively, and rising.
The calls for help from the northwest region, and from 500 kilometers east of this ambulance station, must go unanswered. The medics must coordinate with Israel via the ICRC. A bitter irony; the occupier denies permission to leave, the occupier invades, the invader kills and injures, and — beyond belief — holds the power to grant permission to retrieve those that the invader has injured or killed.
My article ends in continued disbelief — to the thuds of explosions and Apache blades; to the staccato of firing into the night; and to blasts hitting unknown targets with an unknown end.