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Gaza reaches tipping point, doctors tell UN in plea for help


(UNITED NATIONS) — At the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday, four doctors from the U.S., U.K. and France who have spent decades working on the frontlines, warned that the humanitarian situation in Gaza has reached “a tipping point” and that an Israeli invasion of Rafah would be “apocalyptic.”

The group pleaded for help from global leaders as it discussed the worsening healthcare emergency in the Strip since Oct. 7, the result of Israel’s retaliatory war in response to the Hamas terrorist attack that left 1,200 dead and saw 253 kidnapped. More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 72,000 others have been injured in Gaza since the war began, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Dr. Zaher Sahloul, a critical care specialist and co-founder of MedGlobal, who returned in late January from a mission in Gaza, said during Tuesday’s press conference that they hope through their testimony to “instill a sense of urgency about the situation” in the Strip. He said he’s seen civilians experiencing famine, injuries and shortages of medical supplies and facilities.

The doctors warned about a potential “bloodbath” with “apocalyptic” consequences if Israel carries out its planned invasion of Rafah, a southern city by the border with Egypt where over 1.5 million displaced civilians are currently taking refuge.

“This is probably the worst crisis that can happen within this war,” Sahloul said.

He said he saw a sea of tents of the displaced, hemmed in by the border and by the nearby fighting.

“If there is any offensive, they’re going to have a bloodbath, massacres after massacres,” he said.

Sahloul said he saw an estimate of around 250,000 deaths in this scenario from colleagues on the ground.

Practitioners from Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF), MedGlobal and other nongovernmental organizations are participating in a series of meetings with Biden administration officials and members of Congress in D.C. from Wednesday through Friday

Their visit comes as Israel confirmed that officials will travel to D.C. early next week to meet with their U.S. counterparts to “discuss alternative approaches” for their Rafah offensive.

Their plan includes an evacuation to “humanitarian islands,” according to Israel Defense Forces spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, but it was unclear what those safe areas would look like. Organizations, including MSF, have repeatedly said that there is no safe place in Gaza.

Although international leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have publicly shared their concerns, a senior Israeli official told ABC News on Wednesday that “there is no world” in which Israel does not go ahead with its Rafah offensive, a military operation they claim will destroy the last battalions of Hamas left in the south.

The doctors affirmed that the situation is already dire and called for a cease-fire.

“I felt very overwhelmed the first few days that I was at Nasser Hospital with the amount of injuries that we were seeing and how little resources we had,” said Dr. Thaer Ahmad, a Palestinian-American physician who participated in a MedGlobal mission to Gaza in late January. “If it was not for the Palestinian doctors and nurses holding my hand and showing me how to treat these patients, I think I would have been useless for the rest of my time there.”

Dr. Nick Maynard, a U.K.-based surgeon who worked in Gaza and West Bank hospitals for over a decade, said that what he experienced over New Year’s still haunts him at night.

“One child alone, I will never forget, had burns so bad, you could see her facial bones. We knew there was no chance of her surviving that,” Maynard said at the U.N. “But there was no morphine to give her. So not only was she inevitably going to die, but she would die in agony. … She was just left on the floor of the emergency department to die.”

The doctor said the stories they shared Tuesday were just some of the over 13,000 similar stories of children who have been killed in the conflict, according to numbers from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

Asked by a reporter about aid and plans for field hospitals, such as the one that the U.S. has announced will be built over a floating platform, Dr. Amber Alayyan, a Texas pediatrician with MSF, said such a facility wouldn’t make up for the 35 hospitals destroyed in Gaza since October.

“Before the war, the health care system was not perfect but it was robust,” Alayyan said. “You could put 1000 field hospitals and they wouldn’t address one-tenth of the current needs.”

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