An Israeli air strike, which damaged Gaza's power supply, has already caused problems for hospitals providing dialysis and other treatments requiring a regular power supply.

But doctors are now seeing a rise in the number of emotional problems being presented at clinics.

Dr Iyad al-Sarraj, a psychiatrist in Gaza, said women and children have been coming in larger numbers on a daily basis since the beginning of the Israeli military assault on the Gaza Strip.

The number of the mental health patients during this period was significantly higher than in previous periods, he said.

An official in the Palestinian ministry of health told Aljazeera.net that 78 women and children suffered from psychological problems as a result of the 44 Israeli bombings on Thursday night.

Eight lost consciousness and 42 children exhibited "strong fear".

Dr Moaweya Hasanin, the emergency director in the ministry of health, said: "The continuous bombing of the Gaza Strip and the strong sonic booms, which are part of the Israeli military's aggressive action against the residents, cause environmental acoustic pollution and brain haemorrhage for the new born children."

Health disaster

Doctors say the lack of electricity is a health hazard because food is going bad without refrigeration and clean water cannot be pumped.

"The cut of power on the commercial refrigerators resulted in the invalidation of food such as meat and fish.

"Drinking water and waste water are being mixed with each other as a result of the loss of power for the pumping motors," Hasanin said.

Sun exposure was creating further problems for people stranded at the closed Rafah border.

"They number more than 600 and are directly under the sun's rays which cause different diseases," Hasanin said.

Mamoun Ahmed, who owns a dairy, said: "I started to reduce production and plan to stop it completely because the dairy products depend completely on refrigerators. The loss of power stopped the work of the massive refrigerators at the factory.

"Shopkeepers also started to return products as they grow sour because their refrigerators don't work."

International role

On Friday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), called for Israel to allow urgent medical supplies into Gaza.

Israel has shut the commercially
crucial Karni crossing

Dorothea Krimitsas, an ICRC spokeswoman, said Israel was obliged under international law, including the Geneva Conventions, to ensure that humanitarian supplies reach Palestinian civilians.

"We are negotiating with Israel to allow in humanitarian aid. These are essential medicines and medical supplies for the Palestinian Red Crescent," Krimitsas said.

"We are concerned at the humanitarian consequences of the escalation of violence and closure of crossing points to Gaza, especially the Karni crossing," she said.

"We are worried about the fuel stocks. Palestinian authorities have estimated that they have enough for about seven to 10 days."

Karni is Gaza's main commercial crossing, through which virtually all trade between Israel and the impoverished coastal strip must pass.