The battered health system in Gaza teeters on the brink of collapse as Israel’s military bombardment and blockade of vital humanitarian aid push hospitals past capacity and cut off vital supplies.
At Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, Dr Ghassan Abu Sittah desperately moves between overflowing operating rooms, trying to save the lives of bombing victims. There are too many patients and not enough supplies. He is forced to make difficult triage decisions about who can be treated. Young children dying in their beds sometimes go unattended as he rushes to stabilise adults.
“We can no longer provide anything beyond the most basic lifesaving surgeries,” says Abu Sittah wearily. “I have to choose every moment who we can try to save with our limited resources, knowing many will die.”
This is the torturous reality for Gaza’s doctors – a never-ending surge of dead and dying people of all ages amidst a ravaged healthcare system decimated by Israeli war crimes.
With medical supplies nearly exhausted, due to Israeli blockades, doctors operate on hospital floors without anaesthesia. The mortuary overflows with small bodies piled in car parks. Children are perishing from infected wounds lacking even basic antibiotics.
At bombed al-Awda Hospital, which serves 600,000 annually, Dr Zain Jabar does surgeries by torchlight as power fails. “But here at least the children are shielded from bombs,” she says.
But the onslaught continues. Israel’s military has struck over 50 health facilities. At least 28 health workers have been killed, ambulances bombed, and hospitals damaged or forced to close. “It’s not just that people are going hungry, people are at risk of starvation,” said an aid worker. Disease outbreaks loom. At overwhelmed clinics, care continues under fire.
Israel’s military continues destroying health facilities even after one of the deadliest attacks killed 500 sheltering civilians, including scores of children, at al-Ahli Hospital. Over 3,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7th.
Yet doctors persist. “This is our duty – to keep working as long as we can save lives,” says Dr Samira Al-Nuaimi during a brief break between double shifts at Shifa.
For nurses and ambulance crews, every journey brings more dead children. “I’ve arrived to find crushed infants I couldn’t save,” says paramedic Mazen Al-Haddad, still he continues his perilous work.
Many healthcare workers have lost family, friends and homes in the Israeli strikes. Dr Medhat Saidam was killed along with 30 relatives when his home was bombed. For others, the trauma runs deep.
“I carry the faces of all the wounded children I couldn’t save with me,” says nurse Jehad Abu Salah. Yet despite the pain, he refuses to abandon his young patients.
Hospital staff know their own families sheltering on site are also at risk. “My own wife and newborn are here somewhere, but there is no safe place,” says internist Dr Hasan Khalifa during a brief sleep break on his office floor.
For Gaza’s healthcare heroes, seeing so much agony takes immense psychological toll. “I have never felt so helpless and hopeless,” shares Dr Nuaimi. “But when I want to give up, I remember my oath to help however I can.” Her commitment, like that of Gaza’s exhausted doctors, is all that prevents total collapse.
Their perseverance requires the world’s unequivocal solidarity and Israel to end its devastating assault on Gaza’s civilian population and health system. “I will keep treating patients until my last breath,” vows nurse Jehad Abu Salah.
But the world must act. The international community cannot ignore the crushing siege, bombardment of hospitals, and harm to civilians, all amounting to blatant barbaric war crimes. Only urgent pressure to stop Israel’s attacks on health facilities and allow humanitarian access can relieve the immense suffering in Gaza.
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