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WHO ramping up health aid for Palestinians after Gaza conflict

World Health Organization says it is helping 200,000 Gazans amid ‘staggering needs,’ with 30 clinics damaged in the fighting; calls for unhindered humanitarian access

An ambulance passes into Rafah through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip on May 18, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)
An ambulance passes into Rafah through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, in the southern Gaza Strip on May 18, 2021 (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The World Health Organization Wednesday warned of “staggering health needs” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after last month’s conflict between Israel and terror groups in the coastal enclave.

“WHO is scaling up its response to provide health aid for almost 200,000 people in need” in both territories, WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean regional office said in a statement.

“The situation is volatile. WHO remains concerned… and calls for unhindered access for humanitarian and development-related essential supplies and staff into Gaza and referral of patients out of Gaza whenever needed,” warned the WHO’s Rik Peeperkorn.

Tensions between Israel and the Palestinians spiraled into an 11-day exchange of rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli counter airstrikes last month.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said at least 243 Palestinians were killed, including 66 children and teens, with 1,910 people wounded. It does not differentiate between terror group members and civilians. The Israeli military maintained that it killed some 225 terrorist operatives and that the Palestinian death toll was in fact considerably higher than was reported. It also said some of the civilian fatalities were caused by Hamas rockets falling short and landing in the Strip.

Patients are treated at the Limb Reconstruction Center at Nasser Hospital, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, March 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Thirteen people were killed in Israel, all but one of them civilians, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl. Some 357 people in Israel were wounded. Terror groups in Gaza fired more than 4,300 rockets at Israel during the fighting.

“Over 77,000 people [in Gaza] were internally displaced and around 30 health facilities have been damaged” in the hostilities, the WHO statement said.

To prevent the smuggling of weapons, Israel and Egypt enforce a land and sea blockade on Gaza since Hamas seized control in 2007 of the impoverished and densely populated territory that is home to about two million Palestinians.

“Palestinians’ lives are deteriorating; many of the people affected by the conflict are in urgent need of aid and face other health threats like Covid-19,” Peeperkorn said.

A truck loaded with humanitarian aid, passes into Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, through the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main passage point for goods entering Gaza from Israel, on May 21, 2021, after a ceasefire brokered by Egypt between Israel and the Palestinian Hamas terror group (SAID KHATIB / AFP)

The global healthy body said that as of May 31, “337,191 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 3,765 deaths have been reported in Gaza and the West Bank, with positive cases increasing in Gaza in recent weeks”.

It said that last month it launched an appeal for $7 million to help shore up its health operations in the Palestinian territories, but had only received $2.3 million.

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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