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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Gaza’s hospitals are overwhelmed by the wounded

Israeli snipers have shot many in the lower limbs, leaving them at risk of disability and death

A Palestinian receives medical attention in a hospital after being injured during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Gaza City. AP
A Palestinian receives medical attention in a hospital after being injured during a protest at the Gaza Strip's border with Israel, east of Gaza City. AP

A medical aid group says the vast number of patients treated for gunshot wounds from months of violent border protests have overwhelmed Gaza's health care system.

Doctors Without Borders says that thousands are in danger of infection and disability because Gaza hospitals cannot adequately treat them.

Most of those hurt by live fire were shot in the legs, often resulting in open fractures prone to infection, MSF said. Around 1,000 have infections that could lead ultimately to amputations or even death.

Gaza's militant Hamas rulers have been organising weekly border protests since March in which demonstrators approach the border fence and chant slogans against Israel’s crippling siege of the territory.

Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people and wounded thousands. Palestinian deaths from Israeli strikes and tank fire has seen the death toll rise to at least 220 dead.

"This many patients would overstretch the best healthcare systems in the world. In Gaza, it is a crushing blow," Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF's chief for the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.

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She said that Palestinians wounded in Gaza should be allowed by Israel to leave the enclave and receive the adequate treatment they need.

“The alternative – that thousands of patients will be left to deal with terrible injuries, with many permanently disabled and dependent on their families – is unconscionable when adequate treatment is within the world's grasp.”

The border protests were calling for the return to lands that are now in modern-day Israel. In 1948, hundreds of thousands of Arabs were displaced at the birth of Israel as a state.

Hamas has supported the rallies and Israel accuses the group of using the protests as cover for cross-border attacks.

Israel maintains a tight blockade of Gaza it says is necessary to isolate the strip's rulers Hamas. Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the two million residents.