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Hospitals in southern Gaza are at ‘breaking point,’ international organizations say

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(NEW YORK) — Hospitals in central and southern Gaza are at a “breaking point” and struggling to care for the influx of patients amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization say.

Two hospitals — Al-Aqsa Hospital in central Gaza and Nasser Hospital in southern Gaza — are overwhelmed and are being forced to prioritize those with life-threatening conditions, according to Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has staff working at both medical centers.

“We hear bombing around us, day and night,” Katrien Claeys, an MSF team leader in Gaza, said in a press release Monday. “In the last 48 hours, over 100 dead and over 400 injured people arrived at the emergency room of Al-Aqsa Hospital. Some patients were taken for surgery right away.”

“We see patients with signs of infection and necrotic tissue, as they have not received a change of wound dressing in days and sometimes weeks,” she said.

MSF said Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, where many patients with trauma and burn injuries go, is facing a never-ending flow of patients and is “now at breaking point.”

“The hospital has been receiving multiple severely injured patients nearly every hour,” Chris Hook, MSF medical coordinator in Khan Younis, said in the press release. “There is no available space anymore — it really is a terrible situation. Everyone is genuinely worried about what will come next.”

The WHO said medical staff are caring for two to three times as many patients as the hospitals are designed to hold. The agency described a “catastrophic situation” at the Nasser Hospital with an overflowing emergency department, patients being treated on the floor and a shortage of health workers.

A temporary cease-fire between the Hamas terrorist organization and Israel ended early Friday, and Israel resumed its bombardment of Gaza. The end of the cease-fire came after Hamas freed over 100 of the more than 200 people its militants took hostage during the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel. In exchange, Israel released more than 200 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

Since Friday, Israeli forces have closed in around Khan Younis, and ground forces are now operating “in and around” the key southern Gaza city, an Israeli military official confirmed to ABC News.

Meanwhile, at least 16,248 people have been killed — including 1,240 since the temporary cease-fire ended Friday — and 42,000 have been injured since Oct. 7, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run Ministry of Health and the Hamas government media office. In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured, according to the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, wrote Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter, that the agency moved medical supplies to a warehouse in Rafah, which is located at the Egypt border crossing.

Tedros said this delayed the delivery of medication and other supplies to MSF and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) facilities, where they are caring for patients.

“The movement has already been delayed and will continue to challenge our deliveries to hospitals in Gaza, amid widespread armed conflict and limited staff on the ground,” he wrote. “We need a sustained and safe flow of medical aid to provide care to people in Gaza.”

This comes just one day after the WHO released a statement calling for the protection of health systems in Gaza, recalling what the WHO called a “dire and perilous” situation when the Al-Shifa and Al-Quds hospitals in the north were both forced to stop operations last month amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“We have seen what happened in northern Gaza. This cannot be the blueprint for the south. Gaza cannot afford to lose another hospital as health needs continue to soar,” the WHO statement from Monday read. “Intensifying military ground operations in southern Gaza, particularly in Khan Younis, are likely to cut thousands off from health care — especially from accessing Nasser Medical Complex and European Gaza Hospital, the two main hospitals in southern Gaza — as the number of wounded and sick increases.”

The number of functioning hospitals in Gaza has fallen from 36 to 18, according to the WHO. Of those hospitals, the WHO said three are only providing basic first aid and the remaining 15 are providing partial services.

 

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