"Pitched Battles" in Gaza – or shooting fish in a barrel

Israel’s YNet news website is reporting this morning that “The IDF reported some 70 fatalities in Gaza over the weekend, but the Palestinians are numbering them at 56 – either way, this was the highest number of casualties recorded over such a short period of time since Operation Defensive Shield in 2002”.

YNet addes that “Medical sources in Gaza reported Sunday that some 200 people were injured over the weekend, in the heavy fire exchanges between IDF forces and Hamas, resulting in the Strip’s hospitals arriving at the brink of collapse. ‘The situation in very hard. I have a new intensive-care patient coming in every half-an-hour’, Dr. Khalil Nahal, of the Intensive Care Unit in Shifa Hospital, Gaza Strip’s main medical facility”.

Other reports in the Israeli media suggest that this is just a “managed escalation”, and not the “big one” – the major ground invasion that has been discussed for weeks.

Speculation about this has been encouraged by Israeli government officials, in particular Defense Minister (former Prime Minister) Ehud Barak, who says that a major IDF ground offensive is “inevitable”, and now is “getting closer”.

The YNet story about the effect of the “managed escalation” on Gaza’s hospitals is very telling: “the medical staff is having trouble coping with the numerous patients coming in. ‘Normally, I have 11 beds in the ICU, in its full capacity’, said Dr. Nahal. ‘Now I have 95 beds in three locations in the hospital. We only have four more ICU beds available right now’ … Dr. Nahal believes most of the casualties were wounded in IAF raids, with only a few getting hit by IDF ground troops’ fire. ‘Most patients presented with bombing-related injuries, usually associated with aerial strikes; but some did present with gunshot wounds’, he explained. Should the fighting continue as it has over the weekend, said Dr. Nahal, Shifa may soon arrive on to the brink of collapse. ‘There is a shortage in beds, in drugs, in resuscitation devises, in needles, medical supplies and blood’. The Gaza blockade, he added, makes it impossible to transport those seriously wounded for treatment in Israel. ‘We called on Gazans to donate blood and many have come to do so, but we have no way to transport (critical) patients to Israel – the crossings have been closed since Wednesday’. Physicians for Human Rights published a statement denouncing harming innocent civilians on the Strip and called on both sides to make proper medical treatment available to the wounded. ‘The great number of civilians under threat is horrifying and the leaders of both sides must lay down their arms and begin negotiations’, said the statement. ‘During wartime it is imperative that health and medical facilities be allowed to remain in full working order in order to deal with the wounded’.” This YNet article is posted here .

UPDATE: The Jerusalem Post is reporting Sunday afternoon that Egypt has opened its border to receive up to 200 wounded Gazans for treatment in hospitals in the Sinai:
“Egypt opened its only crossing with the Gaza Strip to receive wounded Palestinians on Sunday, a day after 54 people were killed in IDF operations against terrorists firing rockets from the territory, said a medical official.Egypt sent 27 ambulances to the Rafah crossing to transfer 150-200 wounded Palestinians to hospi.tals in the Sinai Peninsula and other cities on the mainland, said Emad Kharboush, a medical official at el-Arish hospital near the Israeli border … Sunday was the first time Egypt has agreed to open the crossing since Hamas blew up part of the border wall on Jan. 23, letting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians cross over”. The full JPost article can be read here

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