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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 September 2018

Gaza hospitals overwhelmed by influx of patients 

Sixteen people have died and 1,400 have been wounded by Israeli military 

Medical staff carry an injured Palestinian man at an emergency medical tent after clashes with Israeli security forces after a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 01, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP
Medical staff carry an injured Palestinian man at an emergency medical tent after clashes with Israeli security forces after a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip, on April 01, 2018. Said Khatib / AFP

Hospitals in Gaza have been overwhelmed by the influx of wounded civilians following the use of live fire by the Israeli military, rights groups said on Sunday.

Medical facilities in the enclave have long suffered a shortage of medical supplies, including anaesthetics, as well as electricity and fuel.

Tens of thousands gathered on Friday to take part in what has been dubbed the "Great March of Return" in which Palestinians demanded that refugees and their descendants be allowed to return to their ancestral homes in Israel.

Sixteen Palestinians were killed and more than 1,400 were wounded when the demonstration became violent. Some 758 people were hit by live fire and admitted to hospitals, with the remainder hurt by rubber bullets and tear gas, according to Gaza's Health Ministry.

“Prior to the march, the Palestinian Health Ministry was thoroughly prepared to get their staff to work double shifts at the hospitals, but the number of causalities was far beyond their capacity,” Fikr Shalloot, the Gaza director for Medical Aid for Palestinian (MAP) told The National.

“Whatever we provided was not enough, many things were needed, essential drug items, but half of the drugs that were needed to treat people where already used before the march,” said Ms Shalloot.

Aid organisations like the Red Cross have been called upon by the Ministry of Health to provide medical supplies.

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"In response to a request from the Ministry of Health the ICRC donated urgent medical supplies and mobility devices to the Central Drugs stores," the ICRC told The National. "All Ministry of Health staff did not spare efforts to cope with the number of wounded," said the organisation.

The sheer volume of patients meant the hospital staff was unable to provide victims with optimal care, Ms Shalloot said. “The aftermath of the protests reminded people in Gaza of the war in 2014 and 2008-09."

Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas declared Saturday a national day of mourning.

The protests are expected to continue until May 15, the day after the 70th anniversary of the founding of Israel, with demonstrators set to march through the border fence.

“Many people tell us that they don’t know how they were injured, many were concerned over what happened to them," Ms Shalloot said.

Many of the demonstrators said that they were there to protest peacefully. An unarmed man in his late 40s told MAP that he was on the border to observe and provide support when he was shot.

"He didn’t understand how he was injured, he was more than 500 metres from the fence," said Ms Shalloot. Upon the man's arrival at the hospital, he found hundreds of people in the emergency room and an overwhelmed medical team.

The United Nations has repeatedly warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is "rapidly deteriorating", while the economy and services may collapse at any point.

Other recent protests in Gaza against President Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital also turned violent, with Israeli soldiers firing live bullets.

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