'Just miserable': War's toll on Palestinian children stuns doctors

FILE - a young Palestinian girl cries at the funeral of her six-year old relative, 2007.
FILE - a young Palestinian girl cries at the funeral of her six-year old relative, 2007. Copyright HATEM MOUSSA/AP2007
By Euronews with AP
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Gut-wrenching child casualties from Israeli strikes were described to reporters by medics.

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An international team of doctors visiting a hospital in central Gaza was prepared for the worst. But the gruesome impact Israel’s war against Hamas is having on Palestinian children still left them stunned.

One toddler died from a brain injury caused by an Israeli strike that fractured his skull. His cousin, an infant, is still fighting for her life with part of her face blown off by the same strike.

An unrelated 10-year-old boy screamed out in pain for his parents, not knowing that they were killed in the strike. Beside him was his sister, but he didn’t recognise her because burns covered almost her entire body.

These gut-wrenching casualties were described to The Associated Press by Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric intensive-care doctor from Jordan, following a 10-hour overnight shift at Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in the town of Deir al-Balah.

Haj-Hassan, who has extensive experience in Gaza and regularly speaks out about the war’s devastating effects, was part of a team that recently finished a two-week stint there.

After nearly six months of war, Gaza’s health sector has been decimated. Roughly a dozen of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are only partially functioning. 

The rest have either shut down or are barely functioning after they ran out of fuel and medicine, were surrounded and raided by Israeli troops, or were damaged in fighting.

That leaves hospitals such as Al-Aqsa Martyrs caring for an overwhelming number of patients with limited supplies and staff. The majority of its intensive care unit beds are occupied by children, including infants wrapped in bandages and wearing oxygen masks.

“I spend most of my time here resuscitating children,” Haj-Hassan said after a recent shift. “What does that tell you about every other hospital in the Gaza Strip?”

Mustafa Abu Qassim, a nurse from Jordan who was part of the visiting team, said he was shocked by the overcrowding.

“When we look for patients, there are no rooms,” he said. “They are in the corridors on a bed, a mattress, or on a blanket on the floor.”

“It’s just miserable,” he said.

Before the war, the hospital had a capacity of around 160 beds, according to the World Health Organization. Now there are some 800 patients, yet many of the hospital's 120 staff members are no longer able to come to work.

Israel’s bombardment and offensive in Gaza have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians and wounded nearly 75,000 more in the territory of 2.3 million people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. 

Roughly half of Gaza's 2.3 million people are 17 or younger, the UN'ss agency for children estimates.

Israel holds Hamas responsible for non-combatants' deaths and injuries because the militants in Gaza operate from within civilian areas. It says over one-third of the dead are Hamas militants, though it has not backed up the claim with evidence.

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