Issue Brief: Attacks on healthcare and Impacts on Physical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Services in the Gaza Strip (November 2023) – occupied Palestinian territory

Attachments

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have been killed in 137 “attacks on health care” in Gaza as of November 12.

On 15th October 2023, the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani Hospital for Rehabilitation and Prosthetics in Gaza reported severe damage following an Israeli airstrike. The hospital is the first facility specialized in installing prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation in the Gaza Strip. The hospital had already been damaged in a previous Israeli bombardment in 2021.

Attacks on healthcare

Conflict overview

The Gaza Strip, a small enclave home to roughly 2.3 million people, has been under continued bombardment by the Israeli military since October 7th 2023, killing more than 11.000 and injuring more than 20.000 people, triggering mass displacement of the population and causing widespread destruction of civilian property and infrastructure. The bombardment began as Israel’s retaliatory response to the massive attack on Israel launched by Hamas, in which 1,200 Israelis were killed, and roughly 240 Israelis and foreign nationals taken hostage. The October 2023 outbreak of violence is the fifth armed offensive that Gaza’s population has been subjected to since 2006, with each one causing mass casualties and widespread displacement of people. Furthermore, each renewed outbreak of violence left extensive destruction of private property and civilian infrastructure that often, if at all, can take years to repair, with restrictions on the import of construction materials becoming increasingly rigorous with time. Healthcare and rehabilitation facilities had already experienced damage and destruction in previous wars and continue to be under operational and structural duress due to the blockade inflicted by Israel since 2007.

Prior to this latest outbreak of violence, about 80% of Gaza’s population was dependent on humanitarian aid and food subsidies provided by humanitarian organizations. Since October 7th, Gaza Strip has been cut off from water and electricity networks, while all crossings for import of fuel and goods have been closed, leaving Gaza’s population without the most basic needs for survival. Without fuel, Gaza’s health facilities cannot deliver lifesaving healthcare, tend to the relentless flow of patients with trauma injuries, or provide basic necessities to people who sought safety from bombardment. Fuel is running out also for ambulances, which are currently the only link to people who are trapped and injured in affected, hard to reach areas. Fuel is also needed for water desalination plants, as well as for garbage disposal, both essential to be able to maintain basic good hygiene and prevent the spread of diseases.

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