Red Cross says Gaza health crisis of ‘unprecedented magnitude’

Robert Mardini, Regional Director the Near and Middle East ICRC,M speaks during a press conference on the situation in Gaza, at the International Red Cross, ICRC, headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Thursday, May 31, 2018. (AP)
Updated 01 June 2018

Red Cross says Gaza health crisis of ‘unprecedented magnitude’

  • At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest that flared up at the end of March.
  • More than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition, some multiple times, and there had been nearly 5,400 limb injuries.

GENEVA: The Red Cross warned Thursday that Gaza was facing an "epic" crisis, after weeks of violence has left more than 13,000 Palestinians wounded, overwhelming an already disastrously weak health system.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was stepping up its assistance in the beleaguered Palestinian enclave, and was sending in two surgical teams, additional medical specialists and supplies to help face the crisis.
"The recent demonstrations and violent activities along the Gaza border... have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude," Robert Mardini, who heads the ICRC's Near and Middle East operations, told reporters.
At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the unrest that flared up at the end of March. No Israelis have been killed.
More than 13,000 Palestinians have been wounded, including more than 3,600 by live ammunition, some multiple times, and there had been nearly 5,400 limb injuries, ICRC said.
Mardini's comments came as calm appeared to return to the Gaza Strip and nearby Israeli communities following the worst military flare-up in the area since a 2014 war, raising fears of yet another full-blown conflict in the narrow strip.
Mardini said that in the seven weeks since the demonstrations and violence began "we have exceeded the wounded caseload of the August 2014 war".
"This did not happen in a vacuum," he said. "This epic health crisis took place against the backdrop of multiple, protracted, chronic crises affecting all sectors of life in Gaza."
Warning that the Gaza health system was on "the brink of collapse", he said ICRC would boost its assistance over a six-month period to reinforce medical facilities "which are clearly struggling to cope".
Of the thousands wounded, some 1,350 people have complex injuries and will require between three and five surgeries each, Mardini said.
That is "a total of more than 4,000 surgeries, half of which will be carried out by ICRC teams," he said. "I think such a caseload would overwhelm any health system in the world."


US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

People, some wearing face masks, pray outside the Hagia Sophia museum in Istanbul on July 10, 2020 as they gather to celebrate after a top Turkish court revoked the sixth-century Hagia Sophia's status as a museum, clearing the way for it to be turned back into a mosque. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2020

US ‘disappointed’ by Turkey mosque move on Hagia Sophia

  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site

WASHINGTON: The US said it was “disappointed” by Turkey’s decision to turn the Byzantine-era monument Hagia Sophia back into a mosque and urged equal access for all visitors.
“We are disappointed by the decision by the government of Turkey to change the status of the Hagia Sophia,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all,” she said on Friday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has chipped away at the Muslim-majority country’s secularism, announced Muslim prayers on July 24 at the UNESCO World Heritage site.
A magnet for tourists worldwide, the Hagia Sophia was first constructed as a cathedral in the Christian Byzantine Empire but was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453.
Erdogan’s announcement came after the cancellation of a decision under modern Turkey’s secularizing founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to preserve the church-turned-mosque as a museum.

We understand the Turkish government remains committed to maintaining access to the Hagia Sophia for all visitors, and look forward to hearing its plans for continued stewardship of the Hagia Sophia to ensure it remains accessible without impediment for all.

Morgan Ortagus, State Department spokeswoman

Erdogan went ahead despite an open appeal to the NATO ally by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who frequently speaks about religious freedom.
In a statement last week, Pompeo called the museum status an “exemplar” of Turkey’s “commitment to respect the faith traditions and diverse history” of the country and said a change risked “diminishing the legacy of this remarkable building.”
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden also said on Friday he deeply regretted Turkey’s decision.
Biden called on Erdogan to reverse it “and instead keep this treasured place in its current status as a museum, ensuring equal access for all.”