Gaza Pounding Raises Concern on Medical Care

Israel's intensive strike on Gaza that shows no sign of letting up is increasingly raising concern among aid groups about the flow of medical supplies into an area with severe shortages of medical facilities and thousands of injured people.

"Gaza is very heavily populated, and residents cannot flee because all of the borders are closed," said Jacob Kramer of Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, according to Mission Network News.

Palestinian hospital officials estimate that more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed, and more than 3,000 are injured, according to The Associated Press.

"The hospitals are in great need of medicine," Kramer said.

CRWRC has started to help stock hospitals and clinics with medical supplies, according to Kramer, but it is still difficult to get aid into the region. Israel has blocked entry into Gaza but recently opened a humanitarian corridor occasionally available for aid to be taken into the region.

Another church-based aid group, Church World Service, reported that it was able to take three CWS-supported delivery trucks filled with food and medical supplies to the Gaza border for transport to Gaza City. The supplies were expected to arrive in Gaza Tuesday evening and be immediately dispatched to Al-Ahli Hospital.

The delivery included nearly $68,000 in medical supplies, 12,000 cartons of high protein biscuits for children, 20,300 liters of fortified milk, and blankets and quilts.

CWS noted that one of the hospitals it supported was destroyed by Israeli forces this past weekend.

Shij'ia Clinic, run by the Middle East Council of Churches and funded by CWS and its partners, was struck by missiles and completely destroyed on Saturday. Hundreds and thousands of pounds of medical equipment was reported to be destroyed along with the building.

Although the hospital was given just 15 minutes to evacuate, everyone was able to get out safely and no was injured.

But church groups around the world who supported the hospitals are deeply questioning why the hospital was targeted. They say that there is no reason to believe the hospital produced or distributed arms or was used as a base to launch rockets.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr. Barry Morgan, has written to the Israeli Ambassador to London on Tuesday asking why Israel had attacked the health center in Gaza City.

The Middle East Church Council, which was renting offices in the same building as health clinic, said Israelis were targeting the owner of the building, who was living in its upper level.

Shaja-ih Clinic was established in 1968 to provide free medical treatment to the surrounding community, where most of its high-density population live below the poverty line. The clinic had focused on providing care to pregnant women and children.

CWS is also assisting Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza, run by the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Further assistance during the Gaza-Israel conflict was provided by members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) who recently provided $50,000 to secure food aid, trauma counseling and medical care in Gaza.

The conflict is in its 19th day despite international calls to end the fighting. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon began a visit to the Middle East on Wednesday calling for an immediate end to the violence.

"It is intolerable that civilians bear the brunt of this conflict," he said, adding that the "negotiations need to be intensified to provide arrangements and guarantees in order to sustain an endurable cease-fire and calm."

Ban is scheduled to visit Israel on Thursday.