Gaza cancer patients face life-threatening treatment delays


  • By Yolande Nel of Jerusalem and Rushdie Abualouf of Gaza
  • BBC news

Five days into the worst fighting in months between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip, concerns over the humanitarian situation in the Palestinian territory have risen.

More than 200 patients, most of them with cancer, are estimated to be confined to urgently needed treatment. This includes children.

Israel controls two borders with the Gaza Strip, which are used to transport people and goods, and have been closed since the start of the military operation on Tuesday.

The operators of the poor district’s only power plant, which depends on fuel imports from Israel, say they will be forced to close within three days.

A spokesperson told the BBC that this “would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis”. The plant provides about half of the electricity for the region, which is home to about 2.3 million Palestinians.

image caption,

Dina Erdani, a Palestinian cancer patient in Gaza City, says she missed a scheduled treatment in Jerusalem

A British surgeon, one of an estimated 140 humanitarian workers currently stranded in Gaza, says cancer patients face potentially life-threatening delays.

Professor Nick Maynard, a consulting surgeon at Oxford University Hospital, arrived in Gaza City last week as part of an aid program to teach Palestinian doctors advanced cancer surgery.

“The doctors I work with here have multiple examples of people in dire need of cancer treatment,” Professor Maynard told the BBC.

“These treatments are definitely lagging behind, and the current lag can lead to death,” he added.

Professor Maynard said he was one of about a dozen non-resident Britons stranded in Gaza.

Ziyad Al-Zanoun, 70, has spinal cancer and undergoes weekly treatment at Isti Shari Hospital in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank.

“I have had cancer for three years and there is no cure for it here in Gaza,” he said.

“On Tuesday, I was due to undergo chemotherapy in Ramallah and was surprised to find the Erez crossing closed.

“My health is deteriorating and I am taking painkillers to control the pain. My mental state is also deteriorating,” added Jiyad Al-Zanoun.

Israel tightened its blockade in 2007, citing security concerns, after the Gaza Strip was occupied by Islamist militant group Hamas.

Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and is designated a terrorist group by Israel and many other countries.

Gaza’s hospitals face severe shortages of medical equipment and medicines, largely due to the effects of the blockade, but also political divisions within Palestine.

Many cancer patients need to go out for treatment. They have to apply for Israeli permits to leave the country via the Erez crossroads. Most of the infected are taken to Augusta Victoria Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem.

More than 90 patients, including six children with cancer, were due to arrive in the last week but were unable to travel, said Dr Fadi Al-Atrash, the hospital’s chief executive officer.

“There is always a need to refer patients, mainly to Augusta Victoria, but also to other hospitals in the West Bank,” Dr. Fadi said.

“It is because of the lack of services, drugs, human resources and proper infrastructure in Gaza.”

Once the current hostilities end, patients and their accompanying relatives will need to apply for new Israeli permits to leave Gaza.

“Once the checkpoints open, there will be another process for permits. It will add to the delays in treatment that we have been suffering from,” said Dr. Fadi.

Already Gaza’s power plants are cutting output to conserve fuel reserves. If closed, it will affect various services.

“If the inflow of fuel shipments were to be blocked, the Gaza Electricity Company would be at risk of a complete shutdown, preventing it from supplying critical facilities such as hospitals, waste pumps and treatment facilities, drinking water wells and desalination plants. It will be gone,” said Gaza spokesman Muhammad Tabet. company.

About 300 truckloads of goods normally flow into Gaza every day through Kerem Shalom, the commercial border with Israel.

Past conflicts would have resulted in severe food shortages after days of closure. But Egypt has recently eased its stringent restrictions on Palestinian territory, so the influx of food and other goods continues.

For now, supermarkets still stock basic items, but many shelves are empty, creating long lines when shoppers start stocking up.

The Israeli military-led authority, which controls access to the Gaza Strip, said crossroads in the Gaza Strip were under constant threat from rockets and remained closed this week.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said on Saturday that Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) rebels had fired dozens of mortar rounds into Erez and Kerem Shalom since Tuesday.

He also posted security camera footage of a mortar explosion fired at Erez.

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However, on the first day of Israeli airstrikes, no Palestinian fire was seen, and the fighting lulled several times.

While Egypt continues to broker a ceasefire, a heavy barrage of Palestinian rockets and Israeli airstrikes and artillery have disrupted normal life for millions of ordinary people.

In Israel, about 1.5 million people have been ordered to stay near or inside air raid shelters. Schools and many businesses are closed in the south of the country.

In Ashkelon, a self-employed resident said she had no income for the past week, and her husband, the owner of the shop whose shop was closed, had no income.

Israeli air defenses are unable to intercept all of the hundreds of rockets fired. One woman was killed and several others were injured. Many buildings were damaged.

About 33 people, including women and children, have been killed in Gaza so far, about half of them civilians. Your house or apartment has collapsed or been damaged.

On Friday, the United Nations said 417 people in some 73 households were internally displaced.

The United Nations expressed concern over how the fighting has exacerbated the humanitarian situation in Gaza, where more than half of the population lives in poverty.

Additional reporting by BBC’s Tom Bateman





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