13,000 wounded in 8 weeks; many need multiple operations
RED CROSS SENDS WAR SURGEONS TO ‘SINKING SHIP’
NEW YORK, May 31, (Agencies): Kuwait has held Israel responsible for the recent flare-up of violence in the Palestinian territories, especially Gaza Strip, and backed Palestinians’ right to struggle against the Israeli occupation. “The Israeli occupation authority bears full responsibility for the recent escalation in the occupied territories,” Kuwait’s Permanent Delegate to the UN Ambassador Mansour Al- Otaibi said at a special UN Security Council meeting on the situation in Palestinian territories.
“As long as this occupation continues, Palestinian people have the right to confront it and defend their aspirations and dreams of independence and a free and dignified life.” He expressed Kuwait’s support to the Palestinian people’s struggle and admiration of their steadfastness against the Israeli oppressive regime. “Israel’s policies and practices in the occupied territories can not be justified. The occupation itself is a flagrant violation of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, and must end because it is the core and root cause of conflict in the region,” Al-Otaibi argued. He also reiterated Kuwait’s condemnation of any attack on civilians.
“We would like to emphasize here our principled and firm stance in condemning the targeting of civilians by any party, anywhere and at any time,” he laid it bare. He added that it was unacceptable that the international community remained silent in face of violations of international humanitarian law and the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
Al-Otaibi also lamented that the unlawful unilateral measures to Judaize the occupied Jerusalem continued, as had incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque. He reminded that audience that those actions provoked Muslims, as did the blockade of Gaza, which had lasted more than a decade. “In the past few weeks, Israel has used live ammunition against civilian demonstrators who came out to peacefully express themselves and commemorate the Great March of Return, “More than 120 people, including children, were killed and thousands wounded, some of them become disabled. We have submitted three statements (the UNSC) to express concerns about the fall of victims and assert their right to protest peacefully and called for an independent and transparent investigation into the massacres, but unfortunately they have all been rejected,” he said.
He noted that Kuwait had tabled a draft resolution requiring international protection for Palestinians and had taken many amendments on board. Therefore, he called for transparency and inclusiveness in the negotiations over the draft and hoped it would be adopted by the UNSC soon.
He expressed hope that the Council would send a message that it would stand by the side of the Palestinians, he said, welcoming the Human Rights Council’s May 18 resolution to send a committee to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially Gaza, to investigate Israel’s violations. He reaffirmed Kuwait’s support to peace efforts as the strategic option for ending the conflict. He noted that this option was also backed by the resolutions of the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Movement of Non- Aligned countries at a number of conferences.
“A comprehensive, just and lasting peace based on the resolutions of the international legitimacy; UN Security Council resolutions 242, 1397 and 1515; the principle of reciprocating land for peace; the roadmap; and the Arab Peace Initiative was the goal and should lead to Israel’s withdrawal from all the territories it occupied on June 5, 1967 and allow Palestinian to fully restore their legitimate political rights and establish their independent state on their land, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he concluded.
Brink of war
The latest escalation of fighting between Israel and Palestinian Hamas has pushed Gaza to the brink of war, the UN envoy for the Middle East warned the Security Council. Nickolay Mladenov delivered the stark warning as the council remained deadlocked over how to respond to the flare-up between Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel. “This latest round of attacks is a warning to all of how close to the brink of war we are every day,” said Mladenov, who spoke via video link from Jerusalem.
The council met in emergency session at the request of the United States, which had asked the top UN body to condemn rocket firings by Hamas and Islamic Jihad on Israel. But Kuwait, a non-permanent council member that represents Arab countries, blocked the US-drafted statement, arguing that it had presented its own draft resolution that addressed the crisis.
The exchange of fire on Tuesday and into the early hours of Wednesday began with a barrage of rocket and mortars into Israel from Gaza, prompting Israel to respond with strikes on 65 militant sites in the Gaza Strip. The violence was the most serious escalation since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas and followed weeks of Palestinian protests in which more than 100 Palestinians have been shot and killed by Israeli forces. Calm returned to Gaza on Wednesday but the UN envoy expressed concern that ongoing protests in June will lead to further violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is sending two teams of war surgeons to Gaza and setting up a surgical unit in the enclave’s main hospital to treat heavy casualties from clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians. Since protests on the Gaza-Israel border began on March 30, Israeli troops have killed 115 Palestinians and wounded more than 13,000 people, including 3,600 by live ammunition, Robert Mardini, ICRC’s director for the Near and Middle East, said.
This week also saw the most intense flare-up of hostilities between Palestinian militants and Israel since the 2014 Gaza war. “The recent demonstrations and violence that took place along the Gaza border since the end of March have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude in this part of the world,” Mardini told a news conference on Thursday in Geneva. The ICRC will set up a 50-bed surgical unit at al-Shifa hospital, Gaza’s largest. “Our priority now clearly is to help gunshot wound victims. Imagine, 1,350 people with complex cases who will need three to five operations each, a total of 4,000 surgeries, half of which will be carried out by ICRC teams,” he said. “I think such a caseload would overwhelm any health system in the world, including in Geneva.” The six-month surge of medical expertise, drugs and equipment will speed the long road to recovery and relieve an overwhelmed health care system, he said. “The last eight weeks definitely the first priority has been to save lives and save limbs.
Post-operative care needs today are massive in Gaza,” Dr Gabriel Salazar Arbelaez, ICRC health coordinator in Israel and the occupied territories, told reporters via Skype. Some 60 percent have injuries to the legs and many will need lengthy physical therapy and psychological support, he said. Thirty-two patients have had limbs amputated, he added, citing figures from Palestinian authorities. It was important to be prepared for a “potential new massive influx of patients,” Salazar said, noting it was difficult to receive permission to evacuate people for treatment abroad.
Guislain Defurne, head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Gaza, said many people will end up permanently disabled. Mardini said the economy of Gaza, which is blockaded by Israel and its other neighbour Egypt, was “suffocating”, with high unemployment, electricity limited to four hours a day, and a broken water and sanitation system that pours 20 million litres of untreated sewage into the Mediterranean daily. “The whole Gaza is a sinking ship,” he said.