Hospitals in Gaza are running out of blood bags because urgently needed medical supplies have failed to reach the Palestinian territory, the World Health Organisation said on Wednesday.
More than 1,500 people have been wounded in 10 days of fighting between Gaza militants and Israel, the health ministry said, leaving doctors struggling to provide life-saving treatment.
A humanitarian convoy has twice been halted and medical supplies left behind, after Israel said the area came under rocket fire from Gaza.
“Most of the medical items in those trucks, we are urgently waiting for. Including blood bags,” said Sacha Bootsma, who runs the WHO’s Gaza office.
“They’re almost finished with,” she said of the blood bags, which are used to give critically wounded patients transfusions.
“This is the most urgent item that we were hoping to receive yesterday.”
Anaesthetic, antibiotics, bone cement used in trauma surgery and painkillers are all on a list of dozens of essential items needed to treat casualties of the conflict.
Israeli authorities said the border area came under fire on Tuesday and Wednesday, prompting the convoy to be stopped on both occasions.
Egypt has sent fuel – which is essential to keep hospital generators running – and medical supplies. Cairo’s donation was not co-ordinated with Gaza’s health authorities, however, and the WHO said it will take days to go through the cargo.
The ongoing conflict could also prove deadly for Gazans suffering from chronic diseases, such as those who would usually travel to Jerusalem for heart surgery or cancer treatment.
“If these people are not receiving this type of treatment within a certain time frame, their condition will deteriorate,” Ms Bootsma said.
“We do now have three people that, if they don’t go out now, they will surely die,” she said.
Two to three patients would normally cross daily and cases have been accumulating since Israel closed its crossings on May 10 when hostilities with Gaza militants began.
The difficulty of obtaining hospital appointments and the risky journey through North Sinai renders treatment in Egypt unfeasible.
Although Cairo has offered to treat some of those wounded in the fighting, WHO said only three Gazans have been transferred to Egypt so far.
At least 219 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza and 10 people in Israel killed by rocket fire from the enclave, according to health officials on both sides. Rocket fire has wounded 114 people in Israel.
While medics confront new casualties daily, Gaza’s infrastructure has been hit by intense Israeli air strikes. Six hospitals and a road leading to one of the main emergency rooms have been damaged, hindering ambulance access.
The Israeli military says its target is Hamas, which rules Gaza, and accuses the group of building tunnels used by fighters under civilian infrastructure.
“The destruction is absolutely disproportionate in terms of what you may expect for Israelis looking for Hamas militants,” said Ms Bootsma.
“The amount of destruction is just appalling.”