Gaza hospitals overwhelmed by wounded in Israeli violence: Report

Doctors without Borders says number of injuries 'would overstretch the best healthcare systems in the world'.

    About 6,000 Palestinians have been shot by Israeli forces during protests since March [Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE]
    About 6,000 Palestinians have been shot by Israeli forces during protests since March [Mohammed Saber/EPA-EFE]

    An international medical aid group says the vast number of patients treated for gunshot wounds from months of border protests has overwhelmed Gaza's already fragile healthcare system.

    Doctors Without Borders, known by its French initials MSF, on Thursday said thousands of Palestinians injured by Israeli gunfire during the ongoing Great March of Return protests were at risk of infection and disability because Gaza could not treat them adequately

    In all, some 6,000 Palestinians were shot by Israeli forces during the demonstrations along the separation fence since March, according to the besieged enclave's health ministry.

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    Around 1,000 of those have infections that could ultimately lead to amputations or even death.

    MSF, which has provided care for thousands of Palestinians since the protests began, said most of those hurt by live fire were shot in the legs, often resulting in open fractures prone to infection.

    "This many patients would overstretch the best healthcare systems in the world. In Gaza, it is a crushing blow," Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF's chief for the Palestinian territories, said in a statement.

    The NGO called on Israel to allow those injured out of the blockaded strip for necessary treatment and for governments to offer their medical facilities for the wounded.

    "The alternative - that thousands of patients will be left to deal with terrible injuries, with many permanently disabled and dependent on their families - is unconscionable when adequate treatment is within the world's grasp," she said.

    Collective punishment

    Israel maintains a tight blockade of Gaza it says is necessary to isolate the strip's rulers, Hamas, and keep the group from obtaining weapons or material that could be used to make them.

    Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the two million residents.

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    The border protests have been backed by Hamas, with which Israel has fought three wars since 2008. Protesters are calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to their former homes now inside Israel.

    At least 235 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since March 30, mostly by Israeli fire during border clashes but also by air and tank attacks.

    Two Israeli soldiers were killed over the same period, one by a Palestinian sniper and another in a botched Israeli special forces' operation inside the Gaza Strip.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies