Hospitals in the besieged Gaza strip are overwhelmed with casualties of Israel's ferocious bombing campaign against the densely populated enclave, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday.
According to Reuters, the the WHO is reporting critical shortages of drugs and medical supplies and the problem is only getting worse as the number of dead and wounded rises.
Palestinian officials count at least 60 deaths. Nearly half of these are civilians, including around 20 children. Health Ministry officials said on Saturday that more than 400 people, including more than 140 children, have been injured since Israel began bombing Gaza on Wednesday in response to hundreds of rockets fired into the Jewish state by Palestinian militants resisting the illegal Israeli occupation and economic strangulation. Three Israeli civilians have been killed, and at least 50 wounded, by rockets fired from Gaza.
According to the Associated Press, an Israeli missile flattened a two-story home in a residential district of Gaza City, one of the most densely populated places on earth, killing 11 civilians. Gaza medics said that among the dead were three women and six children. The Telegraphreports that at least seven of the dead, including four of the children, were members of the same family.
The Guardian reported on Sunday morning that Israeli forces attacked homes in the Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza, killing two children and wounding 13 other people. The dead children have been identified as Gumana Salamah Abu Sufyan, age 1, and Tamer Salamah Abu Sufyan, age 3.
Eighteen-month-old Eyad Abu Kusa and 13-year-old Tasneem Zuheir al-Nahhal were also killed in separate Israeli air strikes on Gaza refugee camps.
The WHO issued a statement in Geneva, Switzerland detailing the horrific nature of many of the hundreds of injuries among Gazan civilians.
"Many of those injured have been admitted to hospitals with severe burns, injuries from collapsing buildings and head injuries," the statement said.
The WHO statement also sounded the alarm over "critical shortages" in "life-saving" medicines at Gazan hospitals.
"Before the hostilities began, health facilities were severely overstretched mainly as a result of the [Israeli] siege of Gaza... The Ministry of Health was also facing critical shortages of drugs and disposables, with 192 drugs (40 percent of the essential medicines list) and 586 medical disposables (65 percent of the essential list) at zero stock. Many of the drugs at zero stock are life-saving," the statement said.
Anesthesia drugs are also in woefully short supply, a troubling development considering the high number of severe wounds requiring surgical remedy, including amputation.
Despite Egyptian-led efforts to broker a ceasefire, Israeli forces continued to prepare for a ground invasion of Gaza, stoking fears of increased civilian casualties. An Israeli envoy, as well as Hamas representatives, have held peace talks with Egyptian officials in hopes of averting further escalation, but Israel widened its aerial and naval bombardment of Gaza to include homes and media centers even as talks took place. A pair of attacks on buildings housing local and international media wounded eight journalists, including al-Quds TV cameraman Khader al-Zahar, who had one of his legs blown off.
Visiting Thailand, President Barack Obama declared on Sunday that the United States "is fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself," while cautioning against an all-out ground assault on Gaza, what the Israeli military calls the "second phase" of Operation Pillar of Defense.
"To the people of Gaza, Hamas is playing with fire and and gambling with your fate," an Arabic-language warning broadcast by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) over the hijacked frequencies of Hamas-run radio stations said. "The Israel Defense Force is moving toward the second phase of its operations. For your safety you should stay away from Hamas infrastructure and personnel."
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a member of the far-right nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, threatened Gazans with overwhelming retaliation if Gaza-based rocket attacks against Israel continue. Lieberman said that Israel had failed to finish the job when it invaded Gaza during the brutal 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead, and that "the only way we can achieve peace and security is to create real deterrence via a crushing response that will make sure they don't try to test us again."
Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai raised eyebrows and ire over the weekend after he declared that "the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages."
Hamas remained defiant, firing more rockets into Israel. Israel's US-funded Iron Dome missile defense system reportedly shot down two rockets heading towards Tel Aviv, the nation's largest city. One person was injured by falling debris from an intercepted rocket.
Palestinian militants do not see themselves as "testing" Israel, as Foreign Minister Yishai accused, but rather as freedom fighters legitimately resisting what many international observers, including Nobel Peace laureates Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Jimmy Carter and Mairead Maguire, call Israeli apartheid. UN human rights official Richard Falk and even some Holocaust survivors also accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing, and British Prime Minister David Cameron called Gaza a "prison camp."
A recently-released United Nations report predicted that the besieged enclave of 1.6 million people, the vast majority of them refugees from more than half a century of conflict between Israel, the displaced Arabs of Palestine and regional nations, will be "unlivable" by the year 2020 barring "urgent action."