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Doctors call for halt to Gaza assault

International doctors called for an end to the violence in Gaza, saying hospitals were scenes of "nightmarish havoc" in articles published Wednesday in The Lancet medical journal.
In a special report detailing the human toll of the Gaza offensive, the Lancet said Gaza City's Al Shifa hospital asked for extra refrigeration equipment before the bodies of patients with severe wounds began decomposing.
The hospital, Gaza's largest, reported its 585 beds were filled in the first week of the Israeli offensive.
The Lancet cited the Ministry of Health in Gaza as saying that as of Monday, 292 children and 75 women had been killed in the offensive, with 1,497 children and 626 women wounded.
According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the death toll is somewhat lower: As of Wednesday, it said, 225 children and 70 women had been killed. However, the ministry defines children as 18 and under, the Palestinian Center 17 and under.
Israeli defense officials acknowledge the military has loosened its rules of engagement during the current round of fighting to prevent the killing or capture of soldiers. But military officials note that Hamas fighters have worn civilian clothing while fighting Israeli troops, using schools, mosques and crowded residential areas for cover, making it hard to keep ordinary residents out of harm's way.
There was no immediate Israeli comment on the Lancet articles.
Paul Garwood, a Geneva-based spokesman for the World Health Organization, said the Gaza Health Ministry's figures had not been independently verified, but they seemed reasonable based on their staff's observations in Gaza.
In a statement last week, WHO declared that health services in Gaza were "on the point of collapse." UNICEF called the situation "tragic" and "unacceptable."
The International Committee of the Red Cross said the Israeli army has failed to evacuate the wounded.
"The violence launched on Gaza is taking an unjustifiable toll on civilian populations," the Lancet said in an editorial. "These actions contravene the fourth Geneva convention," it said, referring to the international agreement that civilians are to be protected in times of war.
The Lancet also published a letter signed by more than 700 medical students calling for an end to the Gaza attacks.
Norwegian doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse, who are working inside the Al Shifa hospital, described Gaza's health situation as "nightmarish havoc" in the Lancet special report.
The pair have more than two decades of experience working in Gaza and other war zones. Gilbert and Fosse wrote that since arriving in Gaza on Dec. 31 2008, they have "witnessed the most horrific war injuries in men, women and children of all ages in numbers almost too large to comprehend."
More than 350 surgeries were performed in the first two weeks of the attacks. All of those were on patients injured in the fighting; all other surgeries have been suspended.
Each operating room is equipped with one table and several lights, though many are not working, Gilbert and Fosse said. "The staff have no headlights or spare torches, and use mobile-phone lights if needed," they wrote.
With widespread power shortages throughout Gaza, Shifa heavily relies on generators for electricity.
Gilbert and Fosse had no statistics on the types of surgeries being performed, but had participated in many amputations, including some triple amputations. They said that the killed and injured they have seen in the hospital have overwhelmingly been civilians.
Since most health services not immediately related to the violence have been disrupted or suspended, experts are also worried about people with chronic problems like cancer or heart disease, many of whom have fled Gaza for Egypt or Israel.
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