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The medical situation for Palestinian citizens becomes increasingly desperate

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

In the Israeli retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza, the medical situation for civilians inside the Gaza Strip is becoming increasingly desperate. The World Health Organization has documented at least 34 health care-related attacks in the last week and warns the health system in the Gaza Strip is at a breaking point. NPR's Ari Daniel spoke to doctors in Gaza and brings us this report.

ARI DANIEL, BYLINE: Across Gaza, hospitals are reaching capacity. Al-Quds Hospital is no exception.

NADAL ABED: After one or two days, we will not have space for new patients.

DANIEL: Or for existing patients. Dr. Nadal Abed says the wait for surgery can go on for days. Abed was reassigned to al-Quds earlier in the week. He's usually an orthopedic surgeon with the Ministry of Health in Gaza. At al-Quds, his job is to put people back together again, like Wednesday night when he says planes dropped bombs near the hospital.

ABED: The wounded patient have difficult injuries due to explosive, multiple injury in head, in chest, in abdomen and extremities.

DANIEL: Abed removes shrapnel and resets broken bones. And he's working 24-hour shifts, one full day and night on, then off. He's dealing with dwindling surgical supplies. Israel switched off Gaza's electricity, so most power is coming from backup generators. When the fuel runs out, the WHO warns of devastating impacts on the most vulnerable, the severely injured, ICU patients and newborns dependent on incubators. Even just getting to the hospital is risky, Abed says.

ABED: In normal time without escalation, we have difficulties, I mean big difficulties. And with this situation, with big numbers of wounded patients, the health sector is about to fail, actually.

DANIEL: One strand of that failure is already evident for those with conditions predating the war. Dr. Belal Aldabbour is a clinical neurologist who, during calmer times, sees patients in a private practice and teaches medicine at the Islamic University of Gaza.

BELAL ALDABBOUR: I have been receiving calls from patients who have, for example, epilepsy or neuropathy or multiple sclerosis or stroke, who run out of their medications and they need a prescription.

DANIEL: But Aldabbour says a lot of pharmacies are shuttered, and those that are open are practically empty. Not having access to medications for these conditions, he says, can lead to pain, withdrawals, seizures. Plus, procedures like MRIs and CT scans just aren't feasible right now.

ALDABBOUR: The best solution would be to halt the conflict immediately. But I'm aware that this is at the hands of the politicians, so I as a person - and, I believe, everyone in my situation - we don't have options. We just do what we have to do. We survive day to day.

DANIEL: Aldabbour thinks a lot about the survival of his own family. He tells me this is the first war for his two young boys, so he tries to convince them it's far away, that it'll end soon. But Aldabbour fears that if he's killed in the coming days, he'll be reduced to a number and not a name.

ALDABBOUR: I mean, as a person, I have sons, I have a family. I have scientific research accomplishments. I have a career, I have dreams. I am still young.

DANIEL: And, says Aldabbour, he still has people he wants to heal.

Ari Daniel, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF BNMO AND BARONSKI'S "ALL THAT I GOT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ari Daniel is a reporter for NPR's Science desk where he covers global health and development.