Medical sources in Gaza reported Sunday that some 200 people were injured over the weekend, in the heavy fire exchanges between IDF forces and Hamas, resulting in the Strip's hospitals arriving at the brink of collapse.
The IDF reported some 70 fatalities in Gaza over the weekend, but the Palestinians are numbering them at 56 – either way, this was the highest number of casualties recorded over such a short period of time since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002.
"The situation in very hard. I have a new intensive-care patient coming in every half-an-hour," Dr. Khalil Nahal, of the Intensive Care Unit in Shifa Hospital, Gaza Strip's main medical facility.
Even after the hospital was able to secure more beds for its patients, the medical staff is having trouble coping with the numerous patients coming in.
"Normally, I have 11 beds in the ICU, in its full capacity," said Dr. Nahal. "Now I have 95 beds in three locations in the hospital. We only have four more ICU beds available right now."
A former physician at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem, Dr. Nahal found himself caring for many civilians caught in crossfire. "We had a four-year-old girl admitted with a gunshot wound to the head," he said. "I hope she makes it, but she's in critical condition."
Dr. Nahal believes most of the casualties were wounded in IAF raids, with only a few getting hit by IDF ground troops' fire. "Most patients presented with bombing-related injuries, usually associated with aerial strikes; but some did present with gunshot wounds," he explained.
Should the fighting continue as it has over the weekend, said Dr. Nahal, Shifa may soon arrive on to the brink of collapse. "There is a shortage in beds, in drugs, in resuscitation devises, in needles, medical supplies and blood."
Highest number of casualties since operation Defensive Shield (Photo: AP)
The Gaza blockade, he added, makes it impossible to transport those seriously wounded for treatment in Israel. "We called on Gazans to donate blood and many have come to do so, but we have no way to transport (critical) patients to Israel – the crossings have been closed since Wednesday."
Physicians for Human Rights published a statement denouncing harming innocent civilians on the Strip and called on both sides to make proper medical treatment available to the wounded.
"The great number of civilians under threat is horrifying and the leaders of both sides must lay down their arms and begin negotiations," said the statement.
"During wartime it is imperative that health and medical facilities be allowed to remain in full working order in order to deal with the wounded."