Gaza’s health sector at risk as Israel’s week-long airstrikes continue

“We've been through this countless times,” Omar Ghraieb, 33, a Palestinian journalist told Mondoweiss, “but it's harder now with a global pandemic and the whole world falling apart, no electricity and no water."
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Israel has been bombing Gaza for eight days straight, all as part of what Israel says is a response to incendiary balloons sent from Gaza into Israeli territory. 

The night sky in Gaza has lit up in hues of red and orange every night for more than a week, with Thursday marking the eight consecutive night of Israeli airstrikes. 

Despite reported efforts by Egyptian officials to mediate a cease fire, the cross-border tensions don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon, with the Hamas movement releasing a statement on Friday saying it “will not hesitate to wage a battle” with Israeli forces, “if the escalation, bombardment and siege [of Gaza] continues.”

The Israeli military has maintained that the airstrikes are targeting outposts belonging to the military wing of the Hamas movement, who Israel says is responsible for “explosive and arson balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel”.

Local Palestinian media has reported several instances over the past week during which Israeli airstrikes have caused damage to residential and non-Hamas affiliated structures, and in some cases, injury to civilians. 

Earlier this week, Wafa news agency reported that following an airstrike on the Bureij refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip,  a 3-year-old girl, 11-year-old boy, and a woman were hospitalized after sustaining serious injuries. “Serious damage” was also reported on homes in the area. 

Another woman was hospitalized in a separate airstrike in the Beit Hanoun Area in northern Gaza. 

On Sunday, Palestinian media reported that a 35-year-old Palestinian man was critically injured after an unexploded Israeli ordnance detonated in the al-Zaytoun neighborhood of the southern Gaza Strip. 

“We’ve been through this countless times,” Omar Ghraieb, 33, a Palestinian journalist told Mondoweiss, referring to Israeli airstrikes and assaults on Gaza, that in the past have lasted for weeks at a time. 

“But it’s harder now with a global pandemic and the whole world falling apart, no electricity and no water,” he said. 

Ghraieb pointed out that even though Gazans are “used to bad things and trauma,”  situations like these “never get easier.” 

“It’s just too much.”

Power cuts as COVID-19 rises

The latest bombardments come at a difficult time for Gaza’s 2 million residents, who suffer from daily issues with water, electricity, rising unemployment, and most recently, the coronavirus pandemic. 

While Gaza has successfully managed to keep the rate of infection of the coronavirus remarkably low, compared to the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the health ministry there just reported nine new cases of COVID-19, bringing the total number of new cases since Wednesday to 18. 

On top of the constant threat of COVID-19 in Gaza, earlier this week, Gaza’s sole power plant shut down and halted operations, due to an Israeli ban on fuel imports into the territory.

The ban on fuel was made punitively by Israel, also in response to the incendiary balloons that Israel says are the reason for the latest round of airstrikes. 

While Gazans have been suffering from power cuts and hours-long blackouts for years, residents say that things are more difficult now because of COVID-19. 

“We’ve been going through daily power outages well over a decade now,” Ghraieb said. “[But] it’s tougher with the summer, a global pandemic, Israeli attacks, and just no light or internet to stay connected to the world and share the hell you are living through.”

“You feel like you are isolated, and sentenced to live through a blazing hell,” he said. 

On Tuesday, the ICRC expressed concerns over the power shortages in Gaza, warning that the latest blackouts could disproportionately affect the already crumbling health sector, as eight hours of electricity a day have been cut down to merely just three to four hours.

When asked what message he had for the international community about the latest attacks on Gaza, Ghraieb told Mondoweiss that he “has no message for a world that disappointed us for decades, and saw us being prey tp Israeli abuse, occupation, apartheid anf enthic cleansing.” 

“The world doesn’t care about us, and I don’t beg for justice,” Ghraieb said. “Justice will be served eventually.”

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