The UN World Health Organization issued an urgent appeal Thursday for $7 million to pay for a “comprehensive emergency response” in Gaza and the West Bank amid the conflict with Israel.
Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living near Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock.
Israel, in response, launched an extensive bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip. The humanitarian crisis has deepened in the impoverished Strip, with the UN saying 72,000 Palestinians have been displaced.
WHO said the funds from the appeal would “enable a comprehensive emergency response in the next six months” in Gaza as well in the West Bank, which has also seen a surge in protests and violent street clashes.
“In the Gaza Strip, the severity of injuries is straining an already overwhelmed health system,” said Ahmed al-Mandhari, director of WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean region.
The health system in the crowded enclave “is facing critical shortages of essential medicines and supplies while also battling the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said in an online press conference.
Before the latest military escalation, the rate of positive coronavirus tests in Gaza was among the highest in the world, at 28 percent, and hospitals were already overwhelmed by patients.
On Monday, Israeli strikes damaged a clinic, the Gaza health ministry headquarters and the only laboratory in Gaza that was conducting COVID-19 tests. Two doctors were killed.
The global health body pointed to the “destruction of water and sanitation structures” as well as the displacement of large numbers of people in the coastal territory.
This “presents hygiene risks and limits physical distancing measures for the effective prevention of COVID-19 transmission,” it said.
Access to Gaza is tightly controlled by Israel and Egypt, and measures imposed by the enclave’s Hamas rulers initially slowed the spread of the virus.
But in an impoverished society with poor health infrastructure, containing the novel coronavirus eventually proved impossible.
“Closure of entry and exit points for patients and humanitarian health teams, and severe restrictions on the entry of medical supplies, is exacerbating this public health crisis,” Mandhari added.
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says 232 people, including more than 66 minors, have been killed by Israeli strikes over the past 10 days. According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed were members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. The IDF also says some of the Gaza civilian fatalities were killed by the terror groups’ own rockets falling short and exploding in Gaza.
Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured.