Casualties Overwhelm Gaza Hospitals

Only a Handful of Wounded Admitted to Egypt as Hundreds Need Urgent Care

by Jason Ditz, December 29, 2008

As Israeli officials continue to promise to escalate attacks on the Gaza Strip, the small enclave’s hospital system, already weakened by a blockade which kept medical supplies in short supply, is on the verge of collapse according to the Red Cross.

Dr. Wael Qadan, the Palestinian Red Crescent’s director of health services, blamed the blockade, saying “we have in our storehouse in Ramallah around five or six trucks of medicine and disposables lying there for the last three months, and we have not been able to enter Gaza.”

But even without the blockade, only so much can be expected of a hospital system faced with almost 2,000 casaulties and the prospect of thousands more in the coming days. Egypt is now allowing medical aid from the international community to cross through its Rafah border crossing. Iran is among the first to take advantage of this, with a planeload of aid reportedly arriving in Cairo earlier today.

But many Egyptians feel the government isn’t doing enough to help besieged neighbors. Thousands took to the streets of Cairo, calling for the government to open the crossing to people and not just aid. The protesters accused the Mubarak government of complicity in the Israeli attack. So far, only a handful of Gazans have been permitted into Egypt for medical treatment, though the Egyptian government insists Hamas is preventing them from crossing the border. At the same time, Egyptian border troops have opened fire on Gazans attempting to flee across the border. Whatever the cause, Gaza’s hospitals are unlikely to be able to handle the growing toll of the air strikes in the coming days.

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