Gaza’s Healthcare System Destroyed: No Hospitals Remain Functional

There’s not a single functional medical facility left in the enclave, while the direct and indirect death toll could be approaching 200,000

While the United States government attempts to lecture the world about its supposed “rules based order,” it‘s aiding, arming and providing diplomatic cover for Israel’s unprecedented assault on Gaza’s already collapsed healthcare system. In fact, Israel’s attacks, justified by Washington in some cases, have resulted in the territory being left without a single functional hospital.

Just two months into the war in Gaza, no functional hospital remained standing in the north of the territory. One month later, there were only a few hospitals in southern Gaza that remained partially functional. Today, there is not a single functioning hospital in the entirety of Gaza. Some medics are still trying to use the facilities that haven’t been destroyed by bombardment for shelter in which to treat patients with limited supplies, often to no avail.

After only five months of the now nine-month-long war, over 1,500 medical facilities were recorded as destroyed in the occupied Palestinian territories, breaking UN records. 

Israel has killed over 38,300 people in Gaza since the beginning of the war. To put this in perspective, during the Syrian war, 949 medical professionals in total were said to have been killed, with the worst year on record seeing the deaths of almost 200, according to Physicians for Human Rights. That means healthcare workers are being killed in Gaza at a rate around nine times greater than the yearly average during the war in Syria. According to the UN, “more healthcare workers have been killed in Gaza since October than were reported killed in all conflicts globally in 2021 and 2022 combined.”

For those medical professionals who remain, Doctors Without Borders has reported a shortage of essential medications and supplies, with some doctors being forced to choose between treating their own family members and other patients. In one horrifying case, Palestinian doctor Hani Bseiso was forced to amputate the lower part of his teenage daughter’s leg on a kitchen table without anesthetic and using little more than a pair of scissors and gauze. She miraculously survived. Another Palestinian doctor wasn’t as lucky, as he was forced to watch his son slowly die while amputating his leg without anesthetic.

Perhaps the most concerning fact, however, is that hospitals have openly been declared a primary target of the Israeli military’s ground offensive. In November, Israel bombed Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest medical complex in the besieged coastal enclave. The Israeli army released a CGI video depicting a multi-layered tunnel system under Al-Shifa medical complex, claiming that it was the primary headquarters for Hamas. The US government then backed Israeli claims that the hospital was being used as a headquarters, as airstrikes repeatedly rained down upon civilians in the complex’s courtyard.

After Israel’s army had violently invaded the hospital, killing dozens of civilians in the process, an analysis published by the Washington Post found “no evidence” that a tunnel complex had been used by Hamas under the hospital. Despite the US-Israeli claims having been debunked, Washington did not even issue an apology, as Israel moved on to invade the city of Khan Younis the next month, claiming it was the “center of Hamas’s operations.” At the heart of the Israeli invasion of Khan Younis was the objective of taking over Gaza’s second-largest medical complex, Nasser Hospital.

Israel would then go on to re-invade both the Nasser Hospital and Al-Shifa Hospital a number of times, ultimately putting both out of service and leaving behind mass graves containing more than 300 crudely buried bodies at both sites. The total number of dead, wounded and missing after the latest re-invasion of Al-Shifa Hospital was reported to be in the thousands, around 1,500. In total, all 36 hospitals in Gaza have been either completely or partially destroyed in bombing attacks, or are unable to function as regular hospitals due to a lack of fuel, supplies, sanitation and damage to equipment or facilities. 

Back in January, the United Nations had warned that the health system in Gaza was collapsing. We are long past that point now. In May, Doctors Without Borders reported that the healthcare system in Gaza had been “completely destroyed” by Israel. On July 9, UN experts declared that Gaza is on the verge of a famine, asserting that “Israel’s intentional and targeted starvation campaign against the Palestinian people is a form of genocidal violence and has resulted in famine across all of Gaza.”

The experts also attributed this to the collapse of the healthcare system, stating that the deaths of children “from malnutrition and dehydration indicates that health and social structures have been attacked and are critically weakened.”

Even more concerning was a recent study conducted for the Lancet medical journal, which concluded that the true Gaza death toll, including indirect deaths, could plausibly be as high as 195,000. If this conservative estimate is true, that would mean that Israel’s war on the besieged territory has wiped out around 8% of the total civilian population. 

The Gaza Health Ministry’s death toll currently sits at roughly 38,300, with around 88,300 reported injured and more than 10,000 reported missing under the rubble. Now that the health sector has collapsed, it has severely hindered the ability of healthcare professionals in Gaza to calculate the number of deaths each day, as there are no ways of recovering the remains of many who are frequently found scattered across the streets. 

The true number of injuries is even more difficult to know, as most people do not have any access to proper treatment, not bothering to register their injuries with healthcare workers already burdened by an unthinkable number of serious and critical cases. In addition to this, infectious diseases have spread, affecting around half of the entire territory’s population. Due to the dismantling of the health and hygiene systems in Gaza, even basic illnesses are now potentially deadly. With widespread malnutrition and the return of diseases not seen in recent memory inside the enclave, the UN has warned that 1.1 million children could be at risk of dying due to the spread of disease. 

Unprecedented is an understatement, and explaining what is happening to the people of Gaza due to Israel’s systematic targeting of hospitals and medical workers defies the English language. Yet, the US government continues to supply Israel with all the arms it seeks, protecting its actions in front of an international community in shock. Washington knows all of the details listed above and more, but it continues to aid and abet the horror story unfolding inside the Gaza Strip.