“Israeli snipers have intentionally maimed Palestinians protesting in Gaza over the past year, creating a generation of disabled youth and overwhelming the territory’s already crippled medical system, frontline doctors tell Middle East Eye.
According to a United Nations inquiry released this month, over 80 percent of the 6,106 protesters wounded in the first nine months of the Great March of Return were shot in the lower limbs.
Healthcare providers say the pattern of wounds shows that Israeli soldiers are purposefully shooting to maim protesters, most of whom are in their 20s and now require long-term medical care.
“The soldier knows exactly where he’s putting the bullet. This is not random. This is very intimate. This is very planned,” said Ghassan Abu Sitta, professor of surgery at the American University of Beirut (AUB), who treated injured protesters for three weeks at Gaza’s Al-Awda Hospital last May.
“When you have such a huge number of almost identical injuries, where many of the patients were 150 metres away, not in direct contact with the Israeli soldiers, you realise that this is an intentional policy rather than collateral damage,” Abu Sitta told MEE.
Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, the head of mission for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), agreed. “This is obvious. When you have almost 90 percent of the people injured in the lower limb, it means that there is a policy to target the lower limbs,” she said.
Beyond the layers of medical crisis in Gaza, say the doctors, are the long term implications of a generation of young, disabled Palestinians.
“The media will say ‘two, three Palestinians dead, 500 wounded today’. But actually, these 500 have been condemned to a life of disablement, of economic unproductivity, and years of painful surgery,” said Abu Sitta.
“It is also a psychological problem,” added Ingres, “because now the young people understand that it will be very difficult for them.”
“They just wanted to demonstrate for the majority of them to show that they have the right to exist like everybody in the world. And today, after one year, what do they have? They have nothing.“”