WHO says Gaza hospitals ‘completely overwhelmed,’ accuses Israel of obstructing aid

The World Health Organization lamented Wednesday that fewer than half of its requested aid-delivery missions in Gaza have been approved by Israel, stressing the need to reach and resupply devastated hospitals across the territory.

“Hospitals are completely overwhelmed and overflowing and undersupplied,” said Rik Peeperkorn, the WHO’s representative for the occupied Palestinian territories.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva via video-link from Rafah in southern Gaza, he described how patients were frequently undergoing unnecessary amputations of limbs that could have been saved under ordinary circumstances.

Decrying the “shrinking humanitarian space” in the Gaza Strip, he accused Israel of obstructing aid deliveries across the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

Since November, only 40 percent of the missions WHO had requested to deliver aid to northern Gaza had been facilitated, he said.

“Since January, that figure is much lower.”

Only 45 percent of requested missions in southern Gaza had meanwhile been made possible, he said.

“These missions have been denied, impeded or postponed,” he said, describing the situation as “absurd”.

“Even when there is no ceasefire, humanitarian corridors should exist so WHO, UN and their partners can do their job.”

The Hamas attack that launched the war resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.

At least 28,576 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s response, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.

Around 130 of an estimated 250 people taken hostage by Palestinian militants during the attack are believed to remain in Gaza. Israel says 29 of them are presumed dead.

Mediators are racing to secure a pause to the fighting before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths cautioned Tuesday that any military operation there “could lead to a slaughter”.

Peeperkorn agreed, warning that “military activities in… these densely populated areas would be of course an unfathomable catastrophe”.

It “would even further expand the humanitarian disaster beyond imagination”.

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