Gaza’s Al-Shifa Hospital ‘on brink of collapse’ as injuries mount

Gaza City’s main hospital is bustling with patients and mourning families on Tuesday as the Palestinian enclave reels from Monday’s violence in which Israeli forces killed at least 60 protesters and wounded more than 2,700.

Suffering for many families was exacerbated by Tuesday’s 70th commemoration of the Nakba, or catastrophe, the day on which the state of Israel was established on May 15, 1948.

The commemoration highlights the violent campaign that led to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their villages.

Throughout the last seven weeks, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have been protesting as part of a weeks-long movement calling for the right of return for Palestinian refugees to the areas they were forcibly expelled from in 1948.

READ MORE: The will to live drives Palestinians


Since the protests began on March 30, Israeli forces have killed at least 109 Palestinians in the coastal enclave and wounded about 12,000 people.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on residents across the occupied West Bank to hold a general strike on Tuesday in honour of those killed in the Gaza Strip.

Monday’s demonstrations coincided with protests against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Lining the corridors

On Tuesday, journalists and family members waited for their dead in Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital, as surgeons rushed to treat injured protesters in overflowing operating rooms, while other patients lined the corridors.

Ayman al-Sahabani, head of the emergency department in al-Shifa, told Al Jazeera that at least 18 people died while waiting to receive medical attention on Monday evening.

“At one point, we had 500 cases arrive at once,” al-Sahabani said. “This is way more than what the hospital’s capacity can take.”

Al-Sahabani added that medical staff were responding to injuries to the best of their ability, despite the lack of medical supplies.

Describing the type of injuries, al-Sahabani said most patients were hit in the lower body and limbs, while some were hit in the chest area.

The most urgent cases had been injured by live ammunition and explosives, al-Sahabani noted.

‘National obligation’

Father of two Tamer Farouk Abu Ghaben suffered an injury to his hand when an explosive detonated near him in the border area on Monday.

He is in need of immediate surgery, which has been postponed due to the hospital’s lack of capacity.

Originally from Yafa, he insists that it was his “ethical and national obligation” to protest Israel’s occupation and the Palestinian people’s forced displacement.

Similarly, 26-year-old Youssef al-Maqal, who suffered head injuries, says nothing could have stopped him from his right to resist the Israeli occupation.

READ MORE: Israel comes under fire from world leaders for Gaza attack

Al-Maqal was shot in the back of the head with live ammunition but survived despite the seriousness of his wounds. Doctors told Al Jazeera that al-Maqal would likely succumb to his injuries if he does not undergo additional surgery.

It is unclear whether the protests will resume in the Gaza Strip later on Tuesday, but doctors in the hospital fear that a further influx of patients could lead to a complete collapse of services at the city’s main medical facility.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, families were preparing to bury their loved ones.

In the Great Mosque of Gaza, Anwar al-Ghandour, 25, and Mariam al-Thaben, 18, were mourning the death of their eight-month-old baby daughter, Laila.

Tens of people attended the funeral of Laila al-Ghandour, who died of tear gas inhalation late on Monday.

Laila was with her mother who was participating in the sit-in east of Gaza City. They were both in the tents, far away from the front lines, the family told Al Jazeera.

But when tear gas canisters dropped from Israeli drones, everyone in the area was affected, al-Thaben explained, who previously lost another child in 2016.

Additional reporting by Maram Humaid from Gaza — Al Jazeera

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