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Gazans protest Israeli bans on medical imports in ambulance march

Health workers in the besieged Gaza Strip have staged a protest against Israeli restrictions on the import of medical equipment despite repeated warnings that the lives of hundreds of patients are in danger amid a years-long blockade against the coastal enclave.

In the protest on Monday, Gazans drove a convoy of some 25 ambulances to voice their strong objection to the Israeli occupying regime’s ban on the import of medical and diagnostic devices for patients in hospitals in the besieged Gaza Strip for 16 years.

"Preventing the entry of medical devices means the slow death of Gaza patients," read a banner spread across one of the ambulances used in the rally.

"Medical equipment is crumbling,” said another poster, in Arabic, Hebrew and English.

The Palestinian Ma'an news agency cited the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza as expressing concern about the lives of thousands of patients facing risk as a result of the ban on the entry of medical equipment and spare parts.

"There is severe crowding in the reception departments, and there is suffering for the medical staff inside the operating rooms. Some of these devices are used in diagnosing complex fracture cases, and some are used in removing clots from patients who have a stroke in the brain or heart, and the other parts are used in x-ray work,” said Medhat Abbas, the ministry’s director.

"Thousands of patients need these devices, and thus delaying their entry means an increase in the suffering of these patients and overcrowding in hospitals, which are already suffering from severe overcrowding due to the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip," he added.

Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the ministry, also said the protest came after the Israeli prevention of four mobile X-ray machines from entering Gaza, in addition to equipment used to treat stroke patients and those in intensive care.

The restrictions "expose patients of oncology, heart, strokes, complex fractures and intensive care to health risks," Qudra said, adding that importing spare parts for old machines was also an issue.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health has previously warned that the Israeli blockade imposed for more than 15 years on the Gaza Strip deprived about 50 percent of Gazan patients of their treatment rights guaranteed by international humanitarian law inside and outside the Strip.

The Israeli regime’s crippling siege of the Gaza Strip for democratically electing the popular resistance movement Hamas has turned the enclave into the world's largest open-air prison and left many of its people destitute.

The occupying regime brought the entire enclave under land, aerial, and naval blockade in June 2007.

As a result of the siege, unemployment levels in Gaza are among the highest in the world, and as many as 1.3 million out of the 2.1 million Palestinians in Gaza (62 percent) require food assistance as well, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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