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Israel’s Army Marketing campaign Has Left Gaza’s Medical System Close to Collapse

Earlier than Israel’s invasion of Gaza final 12 months, Dr. Mahmoud Al-Reqeb labored in one of many Palestinian territory’s largest hospitals and had a personal clinic, caring for girls all through their pregnancies.

Now, he lives in a plastic tent in Rafah, a Palestinian border city the place roughly half of Gaza’s inhabitants has sought refuge, and treats sufferers for no cost in one other tent. Residing below Israeli bombardment, with shortages of meals and clear water, the pregnant ladies he serves battle to seek out primary security and nourishment, not to mention prenatal care.

Because the Israeli army started bombarding Gaza six months in the past following the Hamas-led Oct. 7 assault, its forces have wrecked whole hospitals, struck ambulances and killed or detained tons of of health-care employees. Israeli restrictions on items coming into Gaza have prevented lifesaving medical provides from reaching sufferers, in response to help teams. And shortages of gas, water and meals have made it tough for medical employees to offer primary providers.

The consequence has been the close to collapse of a well being care system that after served Gaza’s inhabitants of greater than two million. By late March, of the 36 large-scale hospitals throughout Gaza, solely 10 had been “minimally purposeful,” in response to the World Well being Group.

Israeli officers say that medical facilities have been targets as a result of Hamas fighters embed themselves inside and below the services, and that it’s the solely method to root out the armed group. Hamas and medical employees have denied this accusation. Support teams, researchers and worldwide our bodies have more and more been calling Israel’s dismantling of Gaza’s medical capability “systematic.”

“In the event you engineered the destruction of a well being care system, you’ll find yourself precisely the place we’re immediately,” mentioned Ciarán Donnelly, a senior vice chairman on the Worldwide Rescue Committee, an help group that has been working in Gaza.

Mr. Donnelly mentioned he had labored within the humanitarian help sector for 20 years and couldn’t consider another warfare by which a medical system has been so completely crushed so rapidly.

Requested for remark, the Israeli army referred to earlier statements it has made about Hamas fighters’ embedding themselves in services. Proof examined by The New York Occasions suggests Hamas has used Al-Shifa hospital — which the Israeli army has raided — for canopy, saved weapons inside it and maintained a prolonged tunnel. The Israeli army has not introduced equally expansive proof about a lot of the different well being care facilities it has attacked.

Dr. Al-Reqeb’s previous facility, Nasser Hospital, was raided by Israeli troops in February. When he goes to his new job, at an Emirati-funded hospital — one of many few services in Gaza offering specialised gynecological and obstetric providers — he’s one among fewer than 10 docs treating 500 sufferers a day with a “extreme lack of provides, employees, drugs and gear,” he mentioned.

“I used to be very shocked after I realized the extent of injury the medical system is struggling,” Dr. Al Reqeb, 33, mentioned in a phone interview. “It’s fully destroyed.”

The devastation of the medical system has rippled all through Gaza. Most cancers sufferers have needed to halt chemotherapy. Folks with kidney failure have misplaced entry to lifesaving dialysis. Pregnant ladies have gone with out the monitoring that would assist establish life-threatening situations like pre-eclampsia.

“Generally I cry,” mentioned Dr. Zaki Zakzook, an oncologist who was as soon as one among Gaza’s pre-eminent most cancers docs and now lives in a tent along with his household in Khan Younis. “I’m watching my sufferers being executed, slowly and step by step.”

Dr. Zakzook has been in a position to do little for his sufferers because the warfare compelled the closing of the most cancers hospital the place he labored, he mentioned. He now sees sufferers at a hospital within the south however now not provides them chemotherapy, fearing that doing so would weaken their immune techniques at a time when the medical system is unable to deal with an infection, he mentioned. As an alternative, he provides palliative care, like painkillers.

“I’m attempting to do my finest, others are attempting the identical, however what can we do?” he mentioned.

In February, Israeli forces stormed Nasser Hospital, a big facility in Khan Younis. They shelled the hospital’s orthopedic division and detained dozens of well being care employees, in response to Docs With out Borders, an help group whose employees members witnessed the assault.

“The proof at our disposal factors to deliberate and repeated assaults by Israeli forces in opposition to Nasser Hospital, its sufferers and its medical employees,” the group wrote. The Israeli army mentioned it had been trying to find Hamas fighters and the our bodies of Israelis taken captive throughout the Oct. 7 assault.

In March, the Israeli army raided Al Shifa Hospital for a second time, killing almost 200 individuals it referred to as terrorists. Israeli troops left widespread devastation of their wake after prolonged gun battles with Palestinian militants in and across the complicated. It mentioned its troops had come below hearth from gunmen inside and round one of many hospital’s buildings. The Gazan authorities mentioned that 200 civilians had died within the raid. Neither assertion could possibly be independently verified.

After the raid, the hospital premises had been suffering from useless our bodies and shallow graves, in response to the World Well being Group, which led a staff this month to guage the hospital’s situation.

In an announcement after its go to to the ability, the W.H.O. mentioned the hospital was “an empty shell,” with no sufferers and most of its gear “unusable or lowered to ashes.”

“There’s rising proof {that a} purple cross or purple crescent really places a goal on you, fairly than the opposite approach round, and it’s simply an appalling degradation of human values,” mentioned Dr. Tim Goodacre, a surgeon who has been touring to Gaza for years to assist practice Palestinian docs and volunteered at a hospital there in January.

Earlier than the warfare, Abdulaziz Saeed’s 63-year-old father was anticipating to obtain a kidney transplant in March. Mr. Saeed and his mom had each been authorized as potential donors. Then the warfare started. The physician who was to carry out the operation was killed, Mr. Saeed mentioned, and “all our plans have been canceled.”

His household now shares its residence with dozens of displaced individuals within the metropolis of Deir al Balah, and his father, who beforehand wanted three dialysis classes every week for renal failure, is ready to obtain just one every week at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

“The most important challenge is the shortage of medical employees,” Mr. Saeed mentioned. “There was three specialised docs within the kidney division. Two of them had been killed, and the third is unreachable.”

Anas Saad, a 24-year-old nurse who works on the hospital, mentioned a lot of his colleagues had stop after the repeated assaults on medical services.

“That is now not a protected place,” Mr. Saad mentioned. “I’m doing my finest to assist individuals survive. Nonetheless, it’s changing into extraordinarily dangerous, as hospitals might be stormed or bombed anytime.”

Dr. Tanya Haj Hassan, an American pediatric intensive-care physician, just lately entered Gaza as a part of a staff of overseas docs to volunteer on the hospital. She described “apocalyptic” scenes, together with a woman who, she mentioned, died after an Israeli bulldozer ran over a tent, crushing her, and a boy in a wheelchair whose whole household had been killed however who believed that his dad and mom had been coming to get him as a result of “no one has the guts to inform him.” Her account couldn’t be independently verified.

The whole thing of Gaza “simply feels prefer it was hit by a nuclear bomb,” she mentioned. “The fact is, they’ve taken out hospital at a time. ‘Hospital at a time’ — I can’t consider I’m even saying these phrases.”

Hwaida Saad contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon, and Johnatan Reiss from Tel Aviv.

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