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‘Wounds the Size of a Fist’: Gaza Protesters’ Gunshot Injuries Unusually Severe, Medics Say

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The injuries sustained by Gaza protesters at the hands of Israeli troops during the ongoing Great March of Return are unusually severe, doctors say, adding they have seen nothing similar since the Israeli campaign of 2014.

“Half of the more than 500 patients we have admitted in our clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone,” Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, head of mission of Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Palestine, said in a report released last week.

The international medical group stressed that its doctors treated a number of patients with “devastating injuries of an unusual severity” who will have to undergo “complex surgical operations.” The majority of the victims will have serious and long-term physical disabilities, according to the report. “Some patients may yet need amputation if not provided with sufficient care in Gaza,” the statement added. The medics said that large exit wounds “can be the size of a fist.”

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), a British charity that operates in the West Bank and Gaza, also expressed concern. “The bullets used are causing injuries local medics say they have not seen since 2014. The entrance wound is small. The exit wound is devastating, causing gross comminution of bone and destruction of soft tissue,” the London-based group said, citing one of the surgeons in its report last week. Israel’s 2014 Operation Protective Edge in Gaza resulted in over 2,000 deaths.

These wounds may cause a range of diseases, including sepsis, gangrene, osteomyelitis and may finally lead to amputation. “Many of the wounded will be living with the consequences of these shocking injuries for the rest of their lives,” Aimee Shalan, MAP’s CEO, said.

Both medical organizations repeatedly used the word “destruction” to specify the extent of the damage the victims suffered from live fire at the protests.

The reports come amid protests that continue to take place at the Gaza border as part of the Great Return March. The rallies, which have been held since March 30, are slated to continue until the anniversary of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, also known as Nakba, on May 15, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled or simply fled their homes in the Arab-Israeli War.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) repeatedly deployed live fire and used rubber bullets and tear gas against demonstrators during this year’s protests. A colleague of Palestinian journalist Yaser Murtaja, who was killed by Israeli fire at protests, recalled the moment Israeli forces opened fire at them. “Yasser and I ran to film when suddenly Yaser fell to the ground. I screamed to him, ‘Yaser are you alright?’ He didn’t respond and there was blood on the ground underneath him. I knew it was a bad injury and people carried him away,” Abu Amra told Reuters.

Mohammed Ayoub, 15, was another casualty of the Israeli crackdown. The teen was unarmed when he was fatally hit “with an explosive bullet in the head,” a local cameraman, Abdul Hakim Abu Riyash, who captured the incident, told RT. He added that the teenager was nowhere near the frontline and was “far away from the Israeli fence – about 200-300 meters,” he added.
“He asked to go play outside, when he left he told his aunt that he is going to the demonstration for one hour only, and as soon as he got there they targeted and executed him… it happened in less than an hour,” the boy’s mother said.

The latest data from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) revealed at least 37 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces in Gaza, including four children.  The number of those injured exceeded 4,900, the Ministry of Health in Gaza said.

Israeli actions provoked angry reactions from international rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, which repeatedly slammed the use of force against unarmed demonstrators.

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