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‘Operation Al Aqsa Flood’ Day 70: A Deteriorating Public Health Crisis

Above photo: Rescuers and civilians look for survivors amid the rubble of destroyed buildings following an Israeli bombardment in Rafah in the Southern Gaza Strip on December 15, 2023. Bashar Taleb/APA Images.

Raids Across The Occupied West Bank.

A lack of sanitation in Gaza’s overcrowded shelters is contributing to the rapid spread of infectious diseases, with the situation only expected to worsen. A three-day Israeli raid on the West Bank city of Jenin kills 12 Palestinians, 500 detained.

Casualties:

  • 18,787 Palestinians killed* and 50,897 wounded in the Gaza Strip
  • 279 Palestinians killed and 3,365 wounded in the Occupied West Bank

* Due to breakdowns in communication networks within the Gaza Strip, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has not been able to regularly and accurately update its tolls since mid-November. Some rights groups put the death toll number closer to 20,000.

Key Developments:

  • Al Jazeera: At least 33 people were killed in Israeli airstrikes on a UN school sheltering people in Khan Younis, as well as several homes across southern Gaza. Al Jazeera journalists Wael al-Dahdouh and Samer Abu Daqqa were injured while covering the attacks.
  • WAFA: Additional Israeli airstrikes across the Gaza Strip Friday night killed at least 15 people in the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City, with a significant number of women and children among the casualties.
  • Al Jazeera: Israeli forces raided the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Northern Gaza for the third day in a row, forcing 2,500 displaced people to leave. (UN)
  • Al Jazeera: Israeli government to allow aid through Egypt’s Karem Abu Salem crossing
  • Paltel: All telecommunications services cut across Gaza in the fifth communications blackout since the aggression started.
  • UNWRA: Shelters in Gaza are at nine times their capacity. According to OCHA, this overcrowding has made sewage more difficult to manage, attracting insects, mosquitos, and rats, leading to the spread of infectious diseases.
  • Palestinian Health Ministry: 360,000 cases of infectious diseases, largely spread due to overcrowding in shelters, schools and houses as well as contaminated water and food.
  • UNOCHR: Since October 7, 2,784 women in Gaza have become widows and the new heads of their households.
  • Reuters: Israeli troops leave Jenin after a three-day-long raid. According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, 12 Palestinians were killed, and 34 were injured.
  • WAFA: Raids across the West Bank continued Thursday night, with Israeli soldiers destroying two family homes in the village of Urif, south of Nablus, forcibly evacuating the family before blowing up their home. A drone strike targeted a car in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus.
  • UN report: 1,500 cases of Israel illegally approving housing permits on Palestinian land from September through December of this year.
  • Al Jazeera: Since October 7, Israeli settlers have committed more than 343 violent attacks, killing eight Palestinian civilians, injuring more than 83 and forcing 1,026 Palestinians from their homes.
  • U.S. National Security advisor Jake Sullivan met with Mossad Chief David Barnea to discuss cooperation between U.S. and Israeli security agencies on Thursday and Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday.

Public Health Crisis As Infectious Disease Spread Throughout Gaza

After heavy rains and hail storms ushered in the beginning of harsh winter weather in Gaza earlier this week, displaced people in Rafah have been faced with even more challenges as tents flooded, and they found themselves homeless and freezing, without their winter clothes.

“Most of those who evacuated from the northern area left without bringing their winter clothes,” wrote Gaza-based journalist Hind Khoudary, on Twitter.

“They have been knocking on the doors of people whose houses were not bombed, asking for clothes.”

One enormous problem that the displaced are facing is a lack of sanitation in overcrowded shelters—according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is an average of one shower per 700 people and one toilet per 150 people in Gaza, which has contributed to the rapid spread of infectious diseases. It has put even more strain on Gaza’s crippling health system, where only 11 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals remain even partially functional and able to accept new patients.

“The lack of medicine is catastrophic and there is no space in hospitals,” Dr. Marwan al-Hams, the Director of Rafah’s Martyr Mohammed Yusuf Al-Najjer’s hospital, told the BBC.

Several medications—have run out—and the Gaza Health Ministry sent out an SOS that children’s vaccines have run out, as well.

Meanwhile, inside the hospitals, Dr. Hams told BBC that there have been almost 5,000 cases of chicken pox, 115 cases of meningitis and the Gaza health authorities recorded 350 cases of dysentery. Head of the Khan Younis Nasser Hospital Pediatric Ward at Dr. Ahmed al-Farra told Al-Jazeera that he is aware of 15-30 cases of Hepatitis A, and predicts more in the coming month.

“The incubation period of the virus is three weeks to a month, so after a month there will be an explosion in the cases of hepatitis A,” he told Al Jazeera.

Diarrhea cases have surged 66 percent among children, and 55 percent among the adult population, according to data from the World Health Organization. Severe cases of diarrhea can lead to dehydration, and even death.

“This is all in addition to food poisoning,” Dr. Hams told BBC. “Due to the shortage of food, people are resorting to eating old bread. They wash it, dry it in front of a fire or over a heater and then eat it.”

Of course, Gaza’s healthcare workers are also first responders to those injured in Israel’s airstrikes—of which there were several last night, with the largest one targeting a UNWRA school where dozens of people were sheltering in Khan Younis, resulting in at least 33 casualties according to officials at the Nasser Medical Complex.

Now, with 21 hospitals across the Gaza Strip completely destroyed—and the Israeli military actively raiding hospitals and targeting healthcare workers and facilities, Gaza’s already-deteriorating public health crisis has reached a new level, with doctors being forced to decide which cases to treat.

Doctors like Dr. Hams are calling for the Rafah crossing to be opened to allow fuel into Gaza, to power life-saving and sustaining medical operations.

Israeli Troops Leave Jenin After Three-Day Raid; 100 Palestinians Still Detained

Israeli tanks have left the city of Jenin, which residents interpret as a signal that their three-day-long raid on Jenin is complete. Along with killing 12 Palestinians, wounding 34, and arresting 500 (400 of whom were later released), the Israeli military blocked access to the hospital and set up a checkpoint at the entrance, which hindered wounded people from being able to access urgent care. Israeli soldiers also desecrated a mosque and filmed themselves reciting Hebrew prayers over the loudspeaker. The soldiers have since been disciplined for improper conduct in a religious space.

At least 78 Palestinians have been killed in Jenin since October 7, and at least 286 Palestinians have been killed across the West Bank during both Israeli raids and clashes with settlers.

Israeli raids across the West Bank continue, with Israeli soldiers destroying two homes in Israeli soldiers destroying two family homes in the village of Urif, south of Nablus, forcibly evacuating the family before blowing up their home. A drone strike targeted a car in the Balata refugee camp in Nablus. Israeli soldiers also raided the West Bank town of Nil’in, wounding at least two Palestinian men, and the village of Deer Abu Mishwal, wounding two others.

In Jerusalem, Israeli forces kept worshippers from entering Al Aqsa Mosque for Friday prayers, and Anadolu News Agency photographer Mustafa al-Kharouf was severely beaten and sustained injuries to the head. (Al Jazeera)

Calls To Crackdown On Settler Violence, A Visit From US National Security Advisor, Jewish Activists Call For A Ceasefire

The international community is increasingly calling upon Israel to crackdown on settler violence. According to Al Jazeera, there have been 343 violent incidents across the West Bank since October, killing a total of eight Palestinian civilians, injuring more than 83 and forcing 1,026 Palestinians from their homes. Both the United Kingdom and the European Union have proposed sanctions, including a possible travel ban that would keep Israeli settlers who have been involved in violent incidents from being able to travel to the United Kingdom and the European Union.

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan urged Netanyahu to adopt a “lower intensity” military approach in Gaza as opposed to a “high intensity approach.” He finished his trip in Israel and has continued onto the West Bank, where he is meeting Palestinian Authority (PA) leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile in the United States, Jewish Voice For Peace activists protested across eight different cities on the last day of Hannukah, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

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