Israeli forces intentionally destroy public roads to hamper the movement of ambulances; they attack electricity and water networks with heavy shells, causing severe damage, and they continue to close Erez and Kerem Shalom Crossings, preventing patient access to healthcare and the passage of essential medical supplies and fuel.
Al Mezan condemns Israel’s violations of international law, which clearly amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al Mezan also condemns the failure of the international community to stop the offensive. The international community must enforce Israel’s obligation to observe international law, to guarantee the protection of civilians, especially patients, injured persons and medical crews. Humanitarian relief supplies must be protected to halt worsening humanitarian conditions.
Israeli authorities banned movement to and from the Gaza Strip at the beginning of the aggression, completely closing Erez Crossing and restricting the movement of travelers and humanitarian aid. Media sources reported that, on Tuesday, Israeli authorities declined entry to a convoy of medicines and medical supplies sent by the Palestinian government to the Gaza Strip. The UN and international institutions have been trying to negotiate its entry today. The desperation of medical patients, especially oncology and cardiac patients in urgent need of treatment outside the Gaza Strip, is increasing. Many are in constant contact with Al Mezan’s legal unit, seeking assistance and intervention.
Israel’s 14-year unilaterally imposed blockade and closure of the Gaza Strip has severely impacted humanitarian conditions. Gaza hospitals have witnessed a severe deterioration of treatment options and a lack of drugs, which is especially critical now with the huge number of civilians wounded in these attacks. According to reports issued by the General Directorate of Pharmacy in the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH), 45% of essential drugs, and 33% of essential disposable medical items are at 'zero stock' meaning less than one month's supply is available. The deficit increases to 56% in laboratories and blood bank supplies, and Covid-19 tests have stopped entirely due to damages sustained by the Al-Rimal Clinic Center during an attack. The closure also deprives the health sector of institutional development and assistance, and prevents access to volunteers from specialized medical teams, and to essential drugs and treatment.
The information issued by the MoH confirms that Israeli forces are committing flagrant violations against health facilities. Recent attacks caused severe damages in 22 facilities in different areas of the Gaza Strip, causing injury to medical workers, destroying main roads and impeding the movement of medical crews and ambulances attending to the injured. The MoH itself has also had to cease vital services.
On Monday, 17 May 2021, Israeli forces attacked with heavy missiles a residential building in front of the MoH headquarters and Al-Rimal Clinic Center, causing huge damages in the Ministry building and injuring Dr. Majed Salha. Futhermore, the MoH had to stop conducting P.C.R. tests, and medical crews are now unable to provide Covid-19 consultations. This will lead to a public health disaster, since it hinders detection of new infections. This is especially crucial for those evacuated to UNRWA schools, where it is becoming impossible to comply with social distancing measures.
The Israeli aggression also prevents people in the Gaza Strip from accessing medical centers for Covid-19 vaccinations, and impedes the ability of the rapid response crews to conduct testing within the community.
According to the MoH, on Tuesday, 18 May 2021, the number of casualties in the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip reached 217, including 63 children, 36 women and 16 elderly people. The number of injured persons has reached 1,500, including 450 children and 295 women, 50 of whom are in critical condition. Types of wounds are various, with 370 people sustaining injuries to the upper body, and 130 with head injuries.
The deficit in power supply has reached 76%, which causes huge difficulties for health facilities in the Gaza Strip. Many basic services cannot be provided. The MoH has to run generators as alternative power supplies for hospitals. This reliance on generators for hours at a time consumes huge quantities of fuel, which will run out very soon, since Israel has banned its entry to the Strip. The situation would become grave if Israel made good on its threat to completely cut all power to the Strip.
Al Mezan reiterates its concern about the collapse of health services in the Gaza Strip, the tightened blockade and the continuous targeting of medical institutions. Al Mezan strongly condemns the international community’s failure to protect patients, medical facilities and institutions, and calls for Israel to be forced to stop the aggression, to respect international law for patients and injured persons, and to ensure the entry of humanitarian and relief supplies to civilians.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to take tangible and immediate steps to stop Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, to pressure Israel into ending the blockade, and respecting and fulfilling its obligations under IHL. The international community must activate accountability tools, and prosecute those suspected of committing war crimes in the oPt.