Nowhere safe in Gaza

Nowhere safe in Gaza
A Palestinian boy mourns the death of his brother who medics said was killed by an Israeli air strike, at a hospital in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip August 2, 2014.

Shelling, air strikes hit hospitals, clinics in Rafah in Gaza Strip

As Israel began withdrawing some ground troops from the Gaza Strip yesterday, it appears that hospitals and clinics in Rafah have found themselves in the line of fire.

Israeli forces began a campaign of heavy bombardment on Friday and Saturday after Israel's announcement that one of its officers may have been captured by Palestinian militants during a clash.

But early yesterday morning, the Israeli military announced that Second-Lieutenant Hadar Goldin, 23, was considered to have been killed in battle.

After the two days of Israeli shelling and air strikes, central Rafah appeared deserted on Saturday, with shops closed and residents hiding in their homes, reported the New York Times.

Dr Abdullah Shehadeh, director of Abu Yousef al-Najjar Hospital, said Israeli shells hit the hospital on Friday afternoon, forcing its employees and patients to evacuate.

"There is no reason for them to force the women and children of Gaza to pay the price for something that happened on the battlefield," he said.

To continue treating patients, his staff members moved to the smaller Kuwaiti Specialized Hospital, although it was unable to handle the large number of people seeking care.

Ambulances screamed into the hospital's parking lot, where medics unloaded victims onto stretchers sometimes bearing the blood of previous patients. With only 12 beds in the hospital, the staff members had lined up gurneys outside to handle the overflow.

According to the United Nations' humanitarian office, 22 health facilities, including hospitals and clinics, have been damaged or destroyed in the recent wave of violence between Gaza militants and the Israeli military.

Shortly before the 600-bed Al-Shifa medical complex was struck last Monday, the World Health Organisation said that it had been able to verify that at least eight hospitals have been damaged since fighting flared. The organisation said it was still assessing accounts of damage to six others.

UNPRECEDENTED

"The current campaign has put hospitals themselves on the frontline to an unprecedented extent," the British Medical Journal wrote last Monday.

In an earlier bombardment, Mohamed Durra Children's Hospital was hit by shrapnel on July 25, killing a two-year-old child undergoing CPR in the intensive care unit at the time, Gaza's Ministry of Health said.

In some cases, Israel and Hamas have traded blame over the source of fire; in others, Israel says it was targeting weapons stores or militant fire in the vicinity of the hospital.

The United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent have condemned the attacks, noting that medical staff and facilities are protected under international law, regardless of who is responsible for an attack or why a health facility was hit, reported Huffington Post.


This article was first published on August 04, 2014.
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