Gaza hospitals strive to cope with numbers of wounded protesters

GAZA (Reuters) - Worried families crowded the halls and spilled out of rooms in Gaza’s hospitals on Tuesday, as patients wounded at a border protest awaited treatment for injuries suffered on Monday, the deadliest day for Palestinians in years.

Medics work at a hospital in Gaza City May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

In addition to 60 Palestinians killed by Israeli troops on Monday - when the United States opened its Embassy in Jerusalem - more than 1,700 received wounds needing hospital treatment, Gaza medics said.

At Gaza City’s Shifa hospital, the largest of the Gaza Strip’s 13 medical facilities, officials ordered field tents to be put up in the hospital courtyard last week, fearing a likely surge in casualties from the protests around the time of the embassy opening.

Bassem Ibrahim, who said he was shot in the leg by Israeli troops, said at one stage he had feared losing the limb because of the delays in treatment.

“There are not many doctors. They are unable to see everyone, with all the injuries,” said Ibrahim, 23.

“The number was unbelievable and they did not have time. My leg was bleeding a lot.”

The director of Shifa’s emergency department, which has only 20 beds, said his staff received 500 wounded patients on Monday, nearly 20 percent of all the injuries that day across Gaza.

“We are talking about 25 times the capacity of the emergency department, with all the big challenges and the shortage of medicine and medical supplies that has reached critical levels,” Ayman Al-Sahabani told Reuters.

“A lot of these patients are waiting their turn to enter the operating rooms,” Sahabani added.

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He said Gaza needed more vascular and orthopedic surgeons in particular, because of the nature of the injuries suffered.

Palestinian health officials said 107 people have been killed by Israeli fire, and at least 11,000 wounded, since the protests began on March 30.


Nickolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Security Council on Tuesday that Gaza’s fragile infrastructure, including lengthy electricity blackouts, required immediate action.

“Starting tomorrow, the United Nations, together with international partners will need to focus and redouble efforts to implement projects that will have an immediate impact on improving the electricity, water and health situation as a matter of urgency,” he said.

Answering an appeal by Gaza health ministry officials, neighbouring Egypt agreed to transfer some of the injured to hospitals in Cairo.

Alaa al-Wadeiah, 35, was among those awaiting to travel to Egypt to have his leg amputated.

“I don’t regret what happened to me. Even after I’ve lost my leg I’ll go back to the border,” said the unemployed father of four.

The protesters are demanding that refugees and their descendants be allowed the right to return to their former family homes, which now lie on the other side of the border fence, inside Israel.

Israel’s use of live fire has drawn international criticism but the Israeli government says it is protecting its borders and that it has warned protesters, some hurling stones and rolling burning tyres, not to come too close to the fence.

On Tuesday two Palestinian protesters were killed by Israeli fire, but the number of protesters - and wounded - declined dramatically from Monday as Gazans mourned those killed the day before.

Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Stephen FarrellEditing by William Maclean