GENEVA: UN agencies appealed on Friday (May 21) for urgent medical supplies and access to Gaza, saying thousands of Palestinian injuries risk "overwhelming" some health facilities after 11 days of violence.
A truce took hold on Friday after the heaviest fighting in years between Israel and Palestinian militants, although aid officials warned that it would take Gaza years to recover from the latest flare-up, the fourth conflict since 2008.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris told a virtual UN briefing focused on the impact of the violence in the Palestinian territories that some 8,538 injuries had been reported on top of 257 fatalities, saying they risked "overwhelming health facilities".
She also called for immediate access for health supplies and personnel into the Gaza Strip, where nearly half of essential drugs are exhausted, and the establishment of humanitarian corridors. "The real challenges are the closures. We need entry of medical supplies," she said in reference to border crossings.
On Gaza which was heavily bombed by Israel during the conflict, Harris said 30 health facilities had been damaged and that road damage was obstructing ambulance access.
Nearly all hospitals there were only partially operational and two were not functioning at all.
Israel, whose towns were hit by Hamas rocket attacks in recent days, says its air strikes hit legitimate military targets and that it sought to avoid civilian casualties. The WHO did not give details of Israeli injuries or deaths.
Matthias Schmale, director at the UN agency for Palestinian refugees' Gaza Operations, said he was worried about a surge in COVID-19 cases after Gazans crowded together for shelter from bombs.
Testing has halted following damage to its main laboratory, WHO said, and there is a "high risk" of infections.
The International Committee of the Red Cross' regional director Fabrizio Carboni echoed the call for urgent medical supplies and also raised concern about hundreds of unexploded bombs, such as two found in a school.
"It will take years to rebuild and even more to rebuild the fractured lives," Carboni told the briefing.