During the 50 day long Israeli bombardment and massacre of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip 2146 Palestinians were killed according to the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights, of whom more than three quarters were civilians. More people have since died from injuries sustained prior to the ceasefire. Approximately 11,000 Palestinians were injured during the same period in Gaza by Israel’s high-tech and internationally-funded arsenal.
Gaza’s hospitals could not cope with the urgent and desperate need for treatment and beds. Demand simply outweighed supply, and with the ‘most moral army in the world’ also directly targeting hospitals desperate attempts were made to get the injured out of Gaza to receive urgent treatment that could not be provided within the Strip’s hospitals. Many attempts were made to get casualties to hospitals in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, but on most occasions such attempts were blocked by Israel. According to Defence for Children International (Palestine), by the end of July ‘fewer than a dozen of the nearly 3,000 injured children had been allowed in to East Jerusalem for treatment’.
The Palestinian Authority Ministry of Health in Ramallah reports that, to date, only 447 Palestinians have been allowed to travel for treatment in hospitals in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or inside Israel itself. Most of those patients were treated in Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem or in the major West Bank cities.
One of the hospitals that continues today to treat the injured from Gaza is the Arab Society for Rehabilitation in Beit Jala. It is the only specialist rehabilitation clinic of its kind in the West Bank. To date, only 13 injured Palestinians have received the necessary permits from Israel to receive treatment at the hospital, of whom 10 remain in the hospital today. The Israeli decision of who to allow to travel to receive treatment is not based on the seriousness of each medical condition, but rather on ‘security issues’ – the same ‘security issues’ that control virtually every aspect of Palestinian life, including the right to life itself.
Many of those who have reached the Beit Jala hospital have done so following surgery in East Jerusalem hospitals, operations that in many cases saved their lives. How many more of the 2000+ Palestinian lives could have been saved had they been allowed such medical treatment is as yet unknown.
The Arab Society for Rehabilitation continues to work with the injured ‘to rehabilitate them for returning back to daily life’ according to Dr. Khalid, who has been one of the doctors working with the trickle of patients from Gaza. Intensive physiotherapy is accompanied by occupational therapy and in many cases psychological counselling. Many of the patients are amputees, and the hospital is developing personalised prosthetic limbs in such cases.
Since the ceasefire agreement was announced, more than 20 Palestinians have died from injuries sustained during Israel’s so-called ‘Operation Protective Edge’. Most recently, 11 year old Yousef al-Shalafa died on Thursday in the European Hospital in Khan Younis.