Palestinian and foreign doctors say the live fire used by Israeli troops has caused unusually severe injuries among protesters in the besieged Gaza Strip over the past month.
Anti-occupation protests along the Israeli fence separating Gaza from the rest of the territories have led to clashes with Israeli forces in which at least 37 Palestinians have lost their lives and thousands of others sustained injuries since March 30.
Doctors at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital said they have not seen such severe injuries since the Israeli regime's latest war on Gaza in 2014.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also said its medical teams have given postoperative care to people “with devastating injuries of an unusual severity, which are extremely complex to treat."
"The injuries sustained by patients will leave most with serious, long-term physical disabilities,” the aid group said.
MSF has given postoperative care to 500 people, including women and children, with bullet wounds since April 1.
“MSF medical teams note the injuries include an extreme level of destruction to bones and soft tissue, and large exit wounds that can be the size of a fist,” it said in a report on April 19.
Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF’s head of mission in Palestine, said half of the more than 500 patients the group has admitted in its clinics have injuries where the bullet has literally destroyed tissue after having pulverized the bone.
"These patients will need to have very complex surgical operations and most of them will have disabilities for life,” she said.
According to the MSF report, a lot of patients will keep functional deficiencies for the rest of their life.
"Some patients may yet need amputation if not provided with sufficient care in Gaza and if they don’t manage to get the necessary authorization to be treated outside of the strip.”
The UK-based group Medical Aid for Palestinians echoed MSF’s findings in a report released on April 20.
“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 group quoted a surgeon at Shifa Hospital as saying.
It noted that Gaza doctors had performed 17 amputations - 13 legs and four arms. In addition, a boy shot by Israeli forces on April 17 had his left leg amputated in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
The boy’s parents stressed that their child was playing soccer near Gaza’s fence east of the al-Bureij refugee camp when he was shot.
The casualties come amid a shortage of medicines as Israel's blockade on the Palestinian enclave is exacerbating the already dire conditions in the area.
The World Health Organization noted that the lack of medication and nonreusable medical supplies such as bandages is undermining the ability to give the flood of patients proper care.
The Palestinian Health Ministry, it said, is in urgent need of stocks of 75 essential drugs and 190 types of nonreusable medical supplies.
The WHO also censured Tel Aviv for attacking medical personnel, saying Israeli soldiers have wounded 48 medical staffers while they were attempting to evacuate the injured. At least three of them were wounded by live bullets. Israel also targeted 13 ambulances with live bullets or tear gas grenades.
In the Gaza Strip, almost 1.3 million of the small territory’s two million inhabitants are refugees demanding their right to return to their pre-1948 homes.