Perfect Storm in Gaza


Crippling Sniper Wounds & Multi-Drug Resistant Infections

By David Kattenburg

It’s a perfect storm: horrific, bone and tissue-pulverizing injuries from high velocity sniper rounds, a health care system crushed by twelve years of military siege, and bone infections resistant to all but the most powerful and expensive antibiotics.


Such is the storm sweeping over tiny Gaza, ten months after the launch of popular protests along the perimeter of what many refer to as an open-air Israeli prison. Almost 200 Gazans have been shot dead by Israeli snipers since the start of the Great March of Return on March 30, 2018. Now in its 47th week, protests call for the right to return to ancestral lands inside Israel.

Some three quarters of Gaza’s 1.8 million inhabitants were driven from their homes by Israel in the wars of 1948 and 1967.

According to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, fatalities include 38 children, two women, two journalists, and three paramedics. Over fourteen thousand have been injured, including 3,058 children, 630 women, 171 paramedics, and 149 journalists, Al Mezan reports.

The unusual nature of some of the worst wounds inflicted by Israeli snipers has been widely reported in the alternative media (though hardly at all by mainstream media such as Canada’s CBC), leading some to conclude that the IDF is using one or another type of ‘expanding’ bullet, variously referred to as ‘butterfly’ bullets or dum-dums. The use of such bullets is prohibited under the 1907 Hague Convention and 2002 Rome Statute. The prohibition carries ‘customary’ status. All nations are obliged to abide by it, without exception or derogation.

I spoke with Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah about the wounds he observed in the course of a two-week visit to Gaza last May. Abu-Sittah is the chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the American University of Beirut, and Director of the Conflict Medicine Program at the AUB’s Global Health Institute.

Eighty percent of the wounds incurred by Gazan protesters are to the legs, Abu-Sittah told me. These involve extensive damage to bone and tissue, and require between five and ten surgeries by experienced orthopedic and plastic surgeons. Gaza’s health care system has a hard enough time coping with routine health care and elective surgery needs, and even keeping the lights on. With the influx of thousands of injured protesters, these have been pushed to the side.

Gaza protesters (Credit: Peter Larson)

As if all this mayhem wasn’t enough, multi-drug-resistant bone infections are now on the rise among Israel’s sniper victims. Gaza’s militarily besieged health care system must now turn to expensive, difficult to acquire antibiotics.

Listen to my conversation with Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah. Click on the SoundCloud link.