Two Years Since Israel’s Invasion Of Gaza!

A hospital in Gaza destroyed by an Israeli bombing raid
A hospital in Gaza destroyed by an Israeli bombing raid

SOME 900 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue to require medical attention as a result of permanent disabilities they sustained during Israel’s devastating 51-day assault on the small territory that began on July 8, 2014, according to UNRWA, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees.

On the second anniversary of the war, the Gaza Strip’s Shifa hospital had 3,839 registered patients waiting for scheduled operations, more than half of which were classified as major surgeries, according to a statement published Monday by UNRWA, adding that surgical appointments were being scheduled for as far away as 2018.

‘Some patients are still suffering two years after their injury and need ongoing care. Many others are still waiting for prosthetic limbs. The state of prosthetics in Gaza is still very precarious,’ Dr. Mahmoud Matar, an orthopaedic surgeon at Gaza’s Shifa hospital told UNRWA.

UNRWA stressed in their statement that: ‘The long waiting lists have left many frustrated, sometimes in unnecessary pain and facing health risks associated with delayed care.’

Meanwhile, a significant part of Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure remains severely damaged, which according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had already been near collapse prior to the start of the hostilities.

Al-Wafa hospital in Gaza City and three primary healthcare clinics were completely destroyed in the war, in addition to 18 hospitals and 60 clinics that sustained damages.

‘To date, all of these facilities have been or are in the process of being repaired/reconstructed, with the exception of the al-Wafa hospital which requires major funding to proceed with reconstruction,’ UNRWA said.

A total of 11,200 Palestinians – including 3,800 children – were wounded in the war, according to UN documentation.

Meanwhile, some 36,000 Palestinians – 20 per cent of the Gaza Strip’s population – are estimated to require mental health support as a result of the war, according to the WHO.

UNRWA said the backlog in treatment was mainly due to the lack of skilled personnel in the Gaza Strip’s crumbling healthcare system.

‘This situation is partially a result of the (Israeli enforced) blockade, which limits outside training opportunities, and of the internal Palestinian divide, which has left public employees recruited by the de facto authorities, including health staff, without regular salaries.’

The Gaza Strip has suffered under an Israeli military blockade since 2007, when Hamas was elected to rule the territory. Residents of Gaza suffer from high unemployment and poverty rates, as well as the consequences of three devastating wars with Israel since 2008, most recently in the summer of 2014.

The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of at least 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the UN.

The UN has said that the besieged Palestinian territory could become ‘uninhabitable’ by 2020, as its 1.8 million residents remain in dire poverty due to the nearly decade-long Israeli blockade that has crippled the economy, while continuing to experience the widespread destruction wrought by the Israeli offenses, and the slow-paced reconstruction efforts aimed at rebuilding homes for some 75,000 of Palestinians who remain displaced following the last Israeli assault.

l Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett advocated on Thursday for Israel to kidnap Palestinians to be used as leverage to obtain the release of two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two soldiers held in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported.

In an interview with Radio Darom, Bennett – who leads the far-right Jewish Home party – discussed the issue of releasing Palestinian prisoners as part of a deal to obtain the return of Israeli citizens Avraham Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed, as well as the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, two soldiers killed during Israel’s 2014 offensive on Gaza.

‘My policies are consistent over the years: complete opposition to disproportionate deals to free terrorists, and certainly in exchange for bodies,’ The Times of Israel quoted Bennett as saying.

According to Israeli news outlet The Jerusalem Post, Bennett then advocated for the kidnapping of Palestinians to pressure for the release of the slain soldiers and missing Israelis.

‘We should do what the State of Israel once did,’ he said. ‘What we once did in such situations was we would go and kidnap from the other side, and create new leverage against the other side, rather than releasing more and more terrorists.’

The Jerusalem Post quoted Bennett’s spokesperson as specifying that the far-right political leader was suggesting kidnapping ‘terrorists’, not Palestinian civilians.

It remained unclear from Bennett’s statement whether he advocated the kidnapping of Palestinians to use as a bargaining chip to exchange with Israelis, in contradiction of his earlier statement, or as an intimidation tactic to coerce those holding the Israelis in Gaza into releasing them.

It was also unclear whether Bennett was pushing for Israel to detain more Palestinians in addition to the 7,000 currently held in Israeli prisons, or hold them completely extrajudicially.

Spokespeople for the Education Ministry and Bennett’s office were unavailable for comment last Friday, in Israel, to clarify the minister’s statements.

Bennett is well known for his incendiary rhetoric vis-a-vis Palestinians.

In the wake of several attacks last week which killed two Israelis, including a 13-year-old girl, and three Palestinians, Bennett advocated for a number of measures which have been denounced by rights groups as constituting collective punishment.

These proposed measures, many of which have been implemented, included increased settlement construction; stepping up Israel’s policy of demolition of Palestinian property built without permits; full Israeli military control over the entirety of the occupied West Bank; military closures of suspected attackers’ hometowns; the detention of suspected attackers’ family members; and cutting off internet and cellular access to the southern West Bank district of Hebron.

Israel is still withholding the bodies of at least seven Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since October, as the slain Palestinians’ families remain uncertain as to when, and if, they will be released for burial.

Meanwhile, the Jordanian government expressed its utmost rejection to the Israeli government’s settlement policies and repetitive decisions to build and expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, according to Jordan’s news agency, Petra.

The Jordanian government’s spokesperson, Mohammad al-Momani, said these Israeli policies Constitute an assault on the Palestinian territories and the rights of the Palestinian people.

He described the Israeli settlement policies as an obstacle before efforts exerted toward peace, maintaining that such policies dissipate hopes to achieve peace in the region.

The Jordanian official reiterated the call for the international community, particularly the US and peace-brokering countries, to take a firm stance against the Israeli government’s settlement expansion policies in the occupied Palestinian land.