A public-health disaster compounds Gaza’s humanitarian crisis

Special A public-health disaster compounds Gaza’s humanitarian crisis
Palestinians wounded waiting to be treated at Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on December 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 12 March 2024
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A public-health disaster compounds Gaza’s humanitarian crisis

A public-health disaster compounds Gaza’s humanitarian crisis
  • Hellish scenes playing out at enclave’s few still functioning hospitals and clinics
  • Many doctors and nurses have either fled, been wounded or killed in the fighting

DUBAI: Children lie in rows on hospital floors and on pavements outside crowded clinics as they await the attention of sleep-deprived medics. Many are caked in dust, congealed with blood and tears, their untreated wounds growing septic the longer they wait.

Among them, men and women search frantically for missing loved ones or plead with doctors for medical attention, while mothers cradle dying infants. With supplies of gauze now scarce, many are bandaged in a patchwork of whatever fabric is available.

Deprived of antiseptics and even clean water, doctors are forced to perform operations and amputations without sterilized equipment, leading to infections for which there are no antibiotics. These often take place without anesthetic or pain relief.

Such hellish scenes are playing out at the few remaining hospitals and clinics across the Gaza Strip, which has endured months of bombardment and effective siege since Israel launched its retaliation for the Hamas-led attack of Oct. 7.




Palestinian children suffering from malnutrition receive treatment at a healthcare center in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on March 5, 2024. (AFP)

“There are still patients and casualties who are scheduled for operations that cannot be performed because there are no supplies, no anesthetic drugs, no generators in these hospitals,” Hisham Mhanna, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Rafah, told Arab News.

“It’s a mess. It’s a catastrophe.”

This, at a time when doctors and nurses have themselves fled, been wounded or even killed amid the bombardment. According to the World Health Organization, just 30 percent of Gaza’s medics are still working — many of them stretched to breaking point.

“They deal with the resulting casualties that are coming into the emergency rooms after airstrikes,” said Mhanna. “This is in addition to the hundreds of thousands of patients and vulnerable groups, including cancer patients, people with disabilities, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases.”




A Palestinian woman comforts her children as they wait at the hospital to be checked in the city of Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip on October 12, 2023. (AFP)

According to Hamas-run Gaza’s Ministry of Health, some 30,900 Palestinians have been killed, 70,500 injured, and 7,000 have gone missing since the violence began. Faced with such carnage, the local health system is buckling.

On Feb. 18, the WHO said Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, the largest city in southern Gaza, where fighting is ongoing, was no longer functional.

“The European Gaza Hospital is the only hospital that’s functional and can provide advanced healthcare services such as surgeries, intensive care and X-rays,” Jessica Moussan, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross based in Dubai, told Arab News.

“There are a few other hospitals partially functioning that have been provided a few supplies.”




A picture shows the damage in Nasser Hospital and the surrounding area in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on February 26, 2024. (AFP)

At the end of January, the ICRC said: “Gaza is at risk of complete medical shutdown without urgent action to preserve services.”

In a statement, William Schomburg, head of the ICRC office in Gaza, said: “Every hospital in the Gaza Strip is overcrowded and short on medical supplies, fuel, food and water.

“Many are housing thousands of displaced families. And now two more facilities risk being lost due to the fighting. The cumulative impact on the health system is devastating and urgent action must be taken.”

INNUMBERS

30,900 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Oct. 7, according to local health officials.

1.3% Proportion of Gaza’s prewar population of 2.3m killed in the conflict.

70,500 People registered as injured, although the true figure is likely far higher.

Just nine of Gaza’s 36 health facilities are still functioning, many only partially, and all at many times their intended capacity. The crowding is made worse by displaced families camped out on hospital grounds, believing they are safe there from the Israeli bombardment.

“The few remaining hospitals that are still functioning struggle on a daily basis with large numbers of casualties in addition to the pressure resulting from the thousands of families who are internally displaced at the hospitals,” said Mhanna.




Palestinians run for cover next to covered bodies after an Israeli airstrike near the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip on November 22, 2023. (AFP)

The displacement of some 85 percent of Gaza’s 2.3 million inhabitants to densely packed refugee camps has left the population — especially young children — vulnerable to waterborne diseases, placing further pressure on health services.

There are also the cases generated by the spread of disease during the war, added Mhanna.

“At certain points sewage was flooding into the hospitals. There is also no personal space, and people cannot afford to buy food,” he said.

“They would rather buy food than hygiene items and without hygiene items you create the perfect storm for a public health crisis filled with waterborne diseases like cholera, hepatitis, chicken pox and influenza, because it is also cold here.”

Then there are those suffering with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer, who have been unable to access routine treatments and therapies since the onset of the crisis, not to mention those in need of physiotherapy and mental health support.




Children injured in an Israeli strike are rushed to the Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

Among the most vulnerable are pregnant women and newborns, who lack access to midwives, surgeons and incubators, as well as pain relief and antiseptics, making complications even more likely.

Critics say the vast destruction is evidence that Israel’s attacks are disproportionate and fail to limit civilian casualties. “Hospitals, intended to be safe havens … have frequently turned into death traps,” the Israeli watchdog Physicians for Human Rights said in a report published in February.

The Israeli government says its military does not target civilians or hospitals and blames Hamas for conducting military operations and launching rockets from crowded residential areas.

Israeli officials have also disputed claims of a mounting hunger crisis in Gaza. One official, recently cited by Bloomberg, said “there is not a shortage of food or water in the Gaza Strip at the moment,” and “it’s just not true that starvation is looming.”

Aid agencies say the limit on the amount of humanitarian relief permitted to enter Gaza by the Israeli military has caused widespread malnutrition, which doctors lack the resources to treat.

Despite repeated warnings by aid agencies about an impending famine, several Gazans have reportedly starved to death.




Aid agencies say the limit on the amount of humanitarian relief permitted to enter Gaza by the Israeli military has caused widespread malnutrition. (AFP)

In northern Gaza, where 300,000 people are thought to remain, around 16 percent of children under the age of two were acutely malnourished as of January, according to the UN. The organization has cited an “unprecedented” rate of decline in the nutritional status of Gazans.

Aid groups operating in Gaza say it has become almost impossible to deliver supplies due to inspections and procedural red tape put in place by the Israeli military, the ongoing fighting, and the complete breakdown of public order.

Even when aid is delivered, crowds of desperate Palestinians quickly overwhelm convoys before relief can be distributed and rationed to the neediest. Such crowds have resulted in crushes, causing further death and injury.

One such incident on Feb. 29, in which more than 100 Palestinians who rushed an aid convoy were killed — many apparently shot dead by Israeli forces — prompted the US to airdrop 38,000 meals into the enclave on March 2.




A man mourns at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, over the bodies of Palestinians killed in an early morning incident when residents rushed toward aid trucks, on February 29, 2024. (AFP)

In a statement on Monday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the US was working to increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza “through as many channels as possible,” including more airdrops because “the situation is simply intolerable.”

“People are desperate for food and water,” said Miller. “Parents are facing impossible choices about how to feed their children. Many don’t know where the next meal will come from, or if it will come at all.”

Although the airdrops offer desperately needed relief, Mhanna said many of the parachuted crates landed in dangerous places where they were often mobbed by desperate crowds, causing accidents, injuries, and brawls.

“These airdrops are our last resort for aid supplies,” he said. “We have seen them land on the rooftops, in the streets. And when they do, people rush to get to the first one, at times fighting each other for the aid.

“This is what makes the ceasefire more urgently needed than ever. We need these safe spaces to access the aid.”




The UN said around 16 percent of children under the age of two in northern Gaza are acutely malnourished as of January. (AFP)

While a ceasefire would ease the burden of further injuries and the release of additional aid would allow medics to save more lives, the damage to Gaza’s health system will likely take years to repair.

Indeed, if the conflict were to end now, approximately 8,000 more people could still die over the next six months as a result of the public health crisis, according to a report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Johns Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health.

“Even if there is a ceasefire, the healthcare system and its workers will not be able to recover quickly,” said Mhanna. “Healthcare workers have been on their knees for months. I don’t see how they can respond to such great needs.”

 


16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
Updated 12 sec ago
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16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman

16 sailors missing after Yemen-bound oil tanker capsizes off Oman
  • Maritime Security Center in Oman said that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon
  • Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels

AL-MUKALLA: Search operations have escalated for 16 seamen who went missing in the Arabian Sea on Monday when their oil tanker, bound for Yemen, sunk off Oman.

The Maritime Security Center in Oman said on Tuesday that 13 Indians and three Sri Lankans are missing from the Prestige Falcon, a Comoros-flagged oil tanker that collapsed 25 nautical miles southeast of Ras Madrakah near the Omani port town of Duqm.

The Indian news agency Asian News International reported that the Indian Navy’s warship INS Teg is participating in the search operation alongside Omani vessels and coast guards to find the missing sailors. The Indian Navy warship was able to locate the capsized tanker on Tuesday morning.

According to marinetraffic.com, which provides ship information, the Prestige Falcon is an oil tanker flying the Comoros flag, and which was going from the UAE to Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. In Yemen, the state-run Public Electricity Corporation in Aden said that the capsized ship was carrying 5,000 tonnes of fuel owned by a local merchant, contradicting media reports claiming that it controlled the ship’s cargo.

This comes as the Conflict and Environment Observatory, an environmental advocacy charity, stated that images provided by the Sentinel 2 satellite on Tuesday showed a 220 km oil slick beginning 106 nautical miles from Yemen’s Red Sea city of Hodeidah, which was believed leaked from the Liberia-flagged oil tanker Chios Lion that the Houthis attacked.

On Tuesday, the Houthis released footage of an explosive-laden and remotely operated boat colliding with the Chios Lion in the Red Sea, which was traveling 100 nautical miles northwest of Hodeidah on Monday, resulting in an explosion and ball of fire. The CEOBS condemned the Houthis for damaging the Red Sea’s ecosystem by assaulting oil vessels. “Attacks have already impacted the Red Sea environment and attacks on oil and bulk chemical carriers pose ongoing risks,” it said in a post on X.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s government said that it had found no evidence of contamination in the Red Sea or along the country’s coast from a fertilizer-laden ship that sank in the Red Sea, repeating appeals for the international community to provide it with technology to neutralize the ship’s danger. The MV Rubymar, a Belize-flagged and Lebanese-operated ship carrying thousands of tons of fertilizer and gasoline, sank in the Red Sea earlier this year after being attacked by Houthi missiles.

Capt. Yeslem Mubarak, vice executive chairman of the Maritime Affairs Authority and a member of the government’s commission responsible for the sinking ship, told Arab News that the Yemeni government teams who visited the ship’s area and combed the Yemeni coasts had not observed any signs of pollution.

He also said that the Yemeni government had requested equipment from some nations, including a remotely operated underwater vehicle, to address the MV Rubymar sinking or any similar incident in the future as the Houthis intensify their attacks on ships. “So yet, there is no pollution or slicks surrounding the ship, and it remains bowed up, indicating that water has not infiltrated all of its compartments,” he said.

Since November, the Houthis have seized a commercial ship, sunk two others, fired hundreds of ballistic missiles and deployed drones and drone boats to attack commercial and naval ships in the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The Yemeni militia sees this as an attempt to pressure Israel to end its war in the Palestinian Gaza Strip.


Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
Updated 28 min 27 sec ago
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Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump

Iran rejects accusations implicating it in plot to kill Donald Trump
  • CNN has reported US authorities received intelligence weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot
  • Iran’s mission to the United Nations calls the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious”

TEHRAN: Iran on Wednesday rejected what it called “malicious” accusations by US media implicating it in a plot to kill former US president Donald Trump.
CNN reported Tuesday that US authorities received intelligence from a “human source” weeks ago on an alleged Iranian plot against the former president, prompting his protection to be boosted. Other US outlets also reported the alleged plot.
CNN said the alleged plot was not linked to Saturday’s shooting at a Trump campaign rally in Pennsylvania, in which the former president was wounded and a supporter killed.
The US National Security Council said it had been “tracking Iranian threats against former Trump administration officials for years” after Tehran threatened revenge for the 2020 killing of Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in neighboring Iraq.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations called the accusations “unsubstantiated and malicious.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Iran “strongly rejects any involvement in the recent armed attack against Trump.”
He added however that Iran remains “determined to prosecute Trump over his direct role in the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani.”
Soleimani headed the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, overseeing Iranian military operations across the Middle East.
Trump ordered his killing in a drone strike just outside Baghdad airport.


Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
Updated 17 July 2024
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Bystander killed as armed groups clash in Libya seaside town

Security personnel affiliated with the Ministry of Interior secure the streets after clashes between armed factions in Tripoli.
  • “The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television
  • Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group

TRIPOLI: Armed groups clashed in a seaside town outside the Libyan capital late Tuesday, killing a woman bystander and sowing panic among beachgoers, emergency services and media reports said.
The fighting erupted in Tajura, a town 20 kilometers (12 miles) east of Tripoli which is popular with families seeking escape from the heat of the capital.
“The woman died after being hit in the head” by a stray bullet, emergency services spokesman Oussama Ali told Al-Ahrar television.
Libyan media reported that the clashes broke out after fighters of one armed group detained a member of a rival group.
A myriad of armed groups have vied for control of the North African country ever since a NATO-backed uprising toppled and killed longtime dictator Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Although relative calm has returned in the past few years, clashes periodically occur between rival groups, most of which are allied with either the UN-recognized government in Tripoli or the rival administration based in the east.
Clashes broke out in Zawiya, west of the capital, in May and in Tripoli itself in April.
In August last year, 55 people were killed in the fiercest clashes to hit the capital in a year.


Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
Updated 17 July 2024
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Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources

Drones target Iraq base housing US-led coalition: security sources
  • The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas
  • The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition

BAGHDAD: Two drones were launched against a base in Iraq where forces of the US-led anti-extremist coalition are stationed, security officials said Wednesday.
“An attack using two drones” targeted Ain Assad base in Anbar province on Tuesday evening, a police official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
“One drone was shot down outside the base by defense systems, and the second exploded inside the base without causing any injuries or damage,” he added.
The attack comes amid escalating regional tensions fueled by the war in Gaza between Washington’s ally Israel and Hamas.
Iran-backed armed groups in Iraq have largely halted similar attacks on US-backed troops in recent months, but have continued to threaten action should war break out between their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel.
A senior security official in Baghdad confirmed Tuesday’s attack, saying he believed it was meant to “embarrass” the Iraqi government and pressure the ongoing talks on the future of the international coalition in Iraq, with Iran-backed groups demanding a withdrawal.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
The US military has some 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq and 900 in Syria with the international coalition.
The coalition was deployed to Iraq at the government’s request in 2014 to help combat Daesh, which had taken over vast swathes of Iraq and neighboring Syria.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a loose alliance of Iran-backed groups, has carried out more than 175 rocket and drone strikes against US-led troops in Iraq and Syria.
It says the attacks are in solidarity with the Palestinians amid the ongoing war in Gaza, demanding an end to the Israeli offensive.
In April, rocket fire from northern Iraq targeted a base hosting the international coalition in Syria.
In late January, a drone strike blamed on Iraqi armed groups killed three US soldiers in a base across the border in Jordan.
In retaliation, the US launched deadly strikes against pro-Iran factions in Iraq and Syria.
Baghdad has sought to defuse the tensions, engaging in talks with Washington to negotiate a timeline for the coalition’s withdrawal.
The senior security official said that an Iraqi delegation is expected to travel to Washington later this week for the ongoing talks.


Israel’s defense minister says Gaza operations allow hostage deal

Israel’s defense minister says Gaza operations allow hostage deal
Updated 17 July 2024
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Israel’s defense minister says Gaza operations allow hostage deal

Israel’s defense minister says Gaza operations allow hostage deal

JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told his US counterpart that military operations in the Gaza Strip have created conditions that would enable a hostage deal to be reached, Gallant’s office said on Wednesday.
Gallant made the comments during an overnight call with US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, his office said.
“IDF operations in Gaza have led to the conditions necessary to achieve an agreement for the return of hostages, which is the highest moral imperative at this time,” Gallant said, according to the statement.