International aid workers visiting the Gaza Strip are relaying the horrific situation Israel is inflicting on the Palestinians. UNICEF reports over 1,000 children have lost legs. Israel is forcing the 2.3 million residents of Gaza into increasingly small areas that lack the ability to accommodate basic needs for survival.
UNICEF spokesperson James Elder said, “Around 1,000 children in Gaza have lost one or both their legs.” He told journalists in Geneva that “every single child is enduring these ten weeks of hell and not one of them can escape.”
Due to the conditions in Gaza, as well as the lack of aid, doctors are often forced to conduct surgeries in unsanitary facilities and without painkillers. “Not only were they amputated without anesthesia, but many of them were amputated in a very quick fashion,” he said.
Dr. Ghassan Abu Sitta, a London-based surgeon who traveled to Gaza to treat patients, told Middle East Eye that having to perform these operations without anesthetic was “one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my career.” At a November press conference, he said, “One night, at Al-Ahli Hospital, I performed amputations on six children.”
The UNICEF official said that even if children recover from the amputation, they do not escape the hell of the threat of death. “As a parent of a critically sick child told me, ‘Our situation is pure misery…I don’t know if we will make it through this.’”
Spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris added that WHO staff in Gaza spoke of not being able to walk in the emergency wards “for fear of stepping on people” lying on the floor “in severe pain” and asking for food and water. She called the situation “unconscionable” and said that it is “beyond belief that the world is allowing this to continue.”
The Israeli military has destroyed most hospitals in Gaza. The medical facilities continuing to operate face frequent attacks and a lack of supplies. A Washington Post investigation recently found that the Israeli Air Force is using 2,000-pound bombs near hospitals.
Elder went on to say that the Israeli military operations make civilians face the constant threat of death. He explained, “Where do children and their families go? They are not safe in hospitals. They are not safe in shelters. And they are certainly not safe in the so-called ‘safe’ zones.” The safe zones are “tiny patches of barren land, or street corners, or half-built buildings, with no water, no facilities, no shelter from the cold and the rain and no sanitation.”
In recent weeks, experts have warned that forcing Palestinians into safe zones with no aid or infrastructure will lead to famine and epidemics. Aid groups have already estimated there are 100,000 cases of diarrhea and 150,000 respiratory infections. In addition, 570,000 Palestinians in Gaza are in a state of starvation. Elder warned the combination of malnutrition and disease will be lethal for the population.
“An immediate and long-lasting humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to end the killing and injuring of children, and child deaths from disease, and enable the urgent delivery of desperately needed life-saving aid,” the UNICEF spokesperson explained.