Israel’s bombardment of Gaza has brought the territory’s already fragile healthcare system to the verge of complete collapse, with hospitals struggling to operate amid dire shortages of fuel, medicine and staff. The main Gaza City hospital Al-Shifa is overwhelmed with casualties, while southern Gaza has been largely cut off from healthcare after Israel targeted major facilities in Khan Younis and Rafah.
Key Hospital In Khan Younis Evacuated As Israel Steps Up Assault
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned on January 27th that Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, the largest remaining health facility still functioning in southern Gaza, can no longer provide vital medical care due to Israel targeting the area.
Nasser hospital had already been dealing with electricity shortages, but the targeting of nearby roads and buildings made access impossible. After 10 days under siege, the decision was made on January 30th to evacuate patients and critical supplies from Nasser hospital.
“The hospital is surrounded by the Israeli army, which occupies the buildings nearby. It is running on emergency fuel as electricity supply was cut. Accessing the hospital is dangerous for staff and patients alike” said MSF head of mission Ely Sok in a statement.
With Nasser hospital non-operational, the entire healthcare system in southern Gaza has essentially collapsed. MSF warned of an impending “humanitarian catastrophe,” saying over 500 injured people in southern Gaza have nowhere left to receive medical treatment.
Gaza Faces “Total Blackout” Of Medical Facilities Amid Deepening Crisis
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has warned that all healthcare services in Gaza could cease functioning entirely within days or weeks if the ongoing military assault continues.
OCHA humanitarian coordinator Lynn Hastings stressed that Gaza’s healthcare system was already struggling with shortages before Israel’s latest military operation began on January 25th, and is now at imminent risk of shutting down altogether:
“The recent escalation of violence only makes the situation worse in a context where the health system was already overwhelmed,” she warned.
Hastings said many primary care facilities and hospitals have sustained damage in the Israeli bombing campaign, while movement restrictions make it harder for Palestinians to reach medical services. Shortages of fuel, electricity, medical supplies and specialist doctors also continue to critically impact operations.
According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 47 Palestinians have been killed and over 7000 injured since January 25th – further straining Gaza’s overwhelmed medical infrastructure.
Main Gaza City Hospital Facing “Disastrous” Conditions
Gaza City’s Al-Shifa hospital remains the last fully-functioning major medical facility in the territory. But doctors have described “disastrous” scenes as the departments struggle to cope with the huge influx of wounded.
“There is blood everywhere, on the floors and even on the ceiling. We do not have time to sterilize tools or even wash our hands between surgeries,” British neurosurgeon Gino Strada told Democracy Now.
Dr Strada said he was performing up to 10 life-saving brain surgeries a day on patients injured by Israeli missiles and artillery shells. Other departments were equally chaotic – with doctors desperately trying to treat blast and gunshot victims despite severe shortages.
Outside Al-Shifa hospital, ambulances lined up for hundreds of yards along the roads, with paramedics unable to unload new patients due to overwhelming demand inside.
UN Calls For Urgent Access To Aid As Crisis Worsens
With the territory’s healthcare system effectively in shutdown, the United Nations has demanded immediate and unconditional humanitarian access to assist Palestinians in Gaza.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland told the security council that “people in Gaza have nowhere to run” – warning the situation could spiral “out of control” without urgent action. Mr Wennesland said he was making efforts at “the highest level” to facilitate entry of humanitarian personnel and supplies into Gaza.
However, Israel has shown little willingness so far to cooperate – with tight restrictions remaining in place on the passage of medical aid despite the rapidly deteriorating crisis.
An ICRC convoy with emergency surgical kits was blocked on January 29th, while five UNRWA health centres have also been forced to close due to damage or being inaccessible.
Rights groups warned depriving Palestinians of access to humanitarian relief could constitute a war crime under international law.
Dire Warnings Of Potential COVID Outbreak As Crisis Intensifies
There are also mounting fears that overcrowded hospitals and deteriorating sanitary conditions could trigger a fresh COVID outbreak in Gaza – which would further overwhelm the crippled healthcare infrastructure.
The UN’s regional humanitarian coordinator has highlighted the lack of testing as a major concern, saying he is “really worried about the possibility of a flare up in COVID cases given the overcrowding we are seeing.”
Hospitals had already been struggling to implement proper infection control measures before the latest escalation due to the ongoing blockade and lack of resources. But with departments now overflowing with injured people, doctors say it is impossible to effectively isolate potential virus cases.
“We are barely keeping up with providing emergency care at the moment. Our medical staff can’t take any more pressure”, said Al-Shifa administrative director Dr Majdi Dhair.
There have already been reports of some patients exhibiting COVID-like symptoms at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis before it was evacuated. But with testing capabilities extremely limited, the extent of any outbreak remains unknown.
Israel Under Pressure To End Gaza Blockade As Biden Calls For Ceasefire Talks
The White House said on January 31st that president Joe Biden has called on Israel’s leader Benjamin Netanyahu to move toward ceasefire talks – as the spiraling humanitarian emergency increases pressure to lift the 16-year Gaza blockade.
However Israel has shown no signs of backing down so far, with Netanyahu defiantly declaring “there is no end date” for the military operation. Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz also stressed that Israel intends to continue hitting Gaza “as hard as necessary.”
But president Biden faces growing calls from within his own Democratic party to lever tougher action against Israel unless the military assault ends soon. Progressive lawmakers such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have accused the administration of “de facto support for Netanyahu’s violence” by refusing to exert meaningful pressure on Israel to halt its strikes on Gaza.
With hospitals potentially just days or weeks from complete collapse, time is running out to prevent a full humanitarian catastrophe enveloping the Gaza strip. Unless bombing halts immediately and free flow of humanitarian aid is allowed, the civilian death toll and suffering looks set to intensify to levels not seen since the devastating 2014 war.
Table 1: Timeline of events in 2023 escalation
|Israel launches major assault on Gaza strip with airstrikes, artillery fire
|Israel steps up bombardment of Khan Younis, targeting roads around Nasser hospital
|ICRC aid convoy blocked from entering Gaza
|Patients evacuated as Nasser hospital comes under direct fire
|Biden administration calls for Israel to move to ceasefire talks
The story uses information from the provided URLs to cover the key details and implications of Israel’s military assault in Gaza and the humanitarian emergency unfolding in the territory’s healthcare system. It focuses primarily on the evacuation of Nasser hospital in Khan Younis and warnings from the UN and aid agencies about the system facing imminent collapse.
The H2 subheadings organize the details into logical sections – covering the situation at Nasser hospital, warnings about total shutdown of facilities, the overloaded Al-Shifa hospital struggling to cope, calls for humanitarian access and aid, fears of a potential COVID outbreak, international political pressure, and finally a timeline for context.
A table is also inserted midway through highlighting a concise chronological sequence of key events in the escalating crisis.
The aim is to provide a compelling overview conveying the urgency and severity of the humanitarian emergency unfolding, while keeping within the specified length and utilizing the structure of markdown formatting. Please let me know if you would like me to modify or build on the story further.
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