Julie Webb-Pullman reports

Stop Israeli attacks, pay health staff, says Gaza MOH

Press Release
Gaza Ministry of Health, Palestine
July 26,2014

How many bodies still lie beneath Shujeiyah rubble?

How many bodies still lie beneath Shujeiyah rubble?

Stop Israeli attacks, pay health staff

Beit Hanoun
Last night Beit Hanoun Hospital came under heavy Israeli shelling while 80 people, including medical staff, three patients, two International Solidarity Movement volunteers, and many civilians were trapped terrified inside. One Swedish activist received cuts to the head, and another person received minor injuries, although the hospital was severely damaged.

Numerous calls for help throughout the afternoon and evening by the Deputy Minister of Health Gaza to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were fruitless. Intervention by the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry eventually achieved an undertaking by Israeli military after midnight not to fire directly upon the hospital. All those inside were finally evacuated to safety this morning under the aegis of the Ministry of Health after the commencement of the 12-hour humanitarian ceasefire.

Beit Hanoun is the second Gazan hospital to have been evacuated and completely closed down in 48 hours due to damage from Israeli strikes, the other being Al Durrah paediatric Hospital in Gaza City, where a toddler in the intensive care unit was killed on Thursday night.

The ceasefire also allowed the retrieval of bodies from beneath the rubble of buildings destroyed overnight during the heavy bombardment of Beit Hanoun; 32 bodies have been found at this time.

Almost a week after the Shujeiyah massacre bodies still lie beneath the rubble, decomposing in the summer heat as hopes of finding further survivors vanish.

Although 40 more bodies have already been retrieved today, it is unlikely that the 12-hour ceasefire will enable the retrieval of all of the dead.

Civil defence personnel do not have the requisite equipment to recover bodies from collapsed buildings, such as diggers, jackhammers, pulleys and winches, or protective wear to safeguard health risks. The longer the bodies are left to decompose, the greater the public health risk.

Khan Yunis
Paramedic Muhammad Matar al-Abadlah, 32, was killed while attending victims in the Khan Younis governate, in yet another Israeli attack on medical personnel.

The situation in Khuza’a remains very difficult. The Israeli occupation forces are still not allowing rescue teams to retrieve dead bodies despite the humanitarian ceasefire.

In other areas of Khan Younis, 23 bodies have been retrieved.

Health Sector Personnel
Health workers are exhausted, many having worked 24 hours a day for two weeks, snatching a few minutes sleep as and when they can.

They are working under extreme conditions of severe resource constraints, massive workloads, and constant exposure to gross trauma, compounded by very real threat to their own health and safety.

Seven health personnel have been killed and 16 injured since July 6 in attacks on their homes, places of work or in transit.

Sixty percent of Gaza’s health sector employees have not been paid since April, and have only received a half salary between August 2013 and March 2014. These workers are trapped between their conscience and professionalism, and their family responsibilities, adding another level of stress to the extreme conditions under which they are working.

The Ministry of Health Gaza calls upon all responsible bodies to immediately resolve the problem of staff salaries, to recognise their selfless and valiant contribution to the lives and well-being of the sick and wounded, and enable them to meet their obligations.

The Ministry of Health Gaza also reiterates its demands for an immediate cessation of Israeli attacks on Gaza, particularly its civilians, health facilities and personnel.

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