Shoot and abandon: Israel barring wounded Gazan protesters’ access to medical care
B’Tselem | 14 March 2019
The Return Protests, which Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been holding near the fence with Israel to demand realization of the right of return and an end to the blockade on Gaza, began nearly a year ago and are still taking place. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), by the end of January 2019, a total of 27,942 people had been injured in these demonstrations, 14,768 of whom were treated in hospitals in Gaza. More than 6,300 had been injured by live fire. According to B’Tselem’s figures, by the end of February 2019, 200 protesters had been killed, including 39 minors and two women. Most of the casualties – killed or injured – had posed no danger to Israeli security forces, who were deployed on the other side of the fence.
Any healthcare system would be hard put to treat such an immense number of casualties. All the more so for the healthcare system in Gaza, which is on the verge of collapsing. Israel has kept Gaza under blockade for more than a decade, imposing restrictions on bringing in drugs, advanced medical equipment and spare parts for broken equipment, and barring doctors from travelling abroad for further training. The restriction on bringing drugs into Gaza has severely depleted local stores of vital drugs and equipment. Gaza also suffers from an intermittent supply of power, largely due to Israeli policy, and routine power cuts damage medical equipment. This has forced hospitals to cut services to a minimum, postponing non-urgent operations and releasing patients home earlier than medically advised.
Given the failing healthcare system in Gaza, injured protesters cannot receive the medical attention they need and must seek vital treatment abroad.