Gaza health system has reached 'point of no return': Red Cross
November 11, 2023 12:14 AM
The Red Cross called Friday for medical facilities and workers in war-ravaged Gaza to be protected, warning the health system there had "reached a point of no return".
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that its teams in recent days had distributed critical supplies to medical structures across Gaza, and had seen "horrendous images that have now gotten worse due to sharpened hostilities".
This was severely affecting hospitals and ambulances, and taking a heavy toll on civilians, patients and medical staff, it said in a statement.
"Overstretched, running on thin supplies and increasingly unsafe, the healthcare system in Gaza has reached a point of no return."
Medical facilities and personnel across Gaza have repeatedly come under attack since Israel's war with Hamas erupted just over a month ago.
Such attacks have dealt "a heavy blow to the healthcare system in Gaza, which is severely weakened after more than one month of heavy fighting," ICRC said.
Israel launched an offensive in Gaza after Hamas fighters poured across the heavily militarised border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly civilians, and taking around 240 hostages.
Vowing to destroy the militants, Israel retaliated with a massive bombardment and a ground campaign that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says has killed more than 11,000 people, mostly civilians and many of them children.
"The destruction affecting hospitals in Gaza is becoming unbearable and needs to stop," William Schomburg, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Gaza, said in Friday's statement.
"The lives of thousands of civilians, patients and medical staff are at risk."
The ICRC pointed out that children's hospitals had not been spared from the violence, including the Al Nasser Hospital, which had been heavily damaged by hostilities and Al Rantisi Hospital, which had been forced to cease operations.
"Our partner the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), has been working relentlessly to continue operating the Al Quds Hospital, as it desperately runs out of the necessary means, amidst increasing hostilities," it said.
Gaza's largest hospital, Al Shifa, which was hit by a strike Friday that its director said killed 13 people, is meanwhile not only overwhelmed with patients but also now hosting thousands of displaced families.
"Any military operation around hospitals must consider the presence of civilians, who are protected under international humanitarian law," ICRC said.
"The rules of war are clear. Hospitals are specially protected facilities under international humanitarian law," it said.
The protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers and medical personnel "is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative to preserve human life in these terrible times".