Dr. Marc Siegel and Yonat Friling: The full toll of the Gaza conflict

The story at the perilous Israel-Gaza border over the weekend goes beyond the rockets that were launched into Israel or the retaliatory airstrikes that hit over 200 terror targets in response. We witnessed the impact on the injured human faces, writhing in pain, and the innocent lives threatened and lost. This story isn’t only about strategy. It’s about human vulnerability at the border.

The Barzilai Medical center in Ashkelon was hit on Sunday by shrapnel caused by an Iron Dome missile interception over the city. Iron Dome is Israel’s highly effective mobile air defense system. In this case, the damage was caused to the oncology unit of the hospital. Professor Chezy Levi, the hospital's CEO and medical director, confirmed the hit to Fox News. Fortunately, he said no patients were hurt. In just the 24 hours after the violence began, the hospital treated over 110 people.

In Ashkelon, due to its close proximity to the Gaza strip, once the red alert sirens are activated, residents have only 15 seconds to rush to a protected area. This creates an enormous emotional impact.


Luckily, some of the hospital wings have safe rooms and protected areas. One of them, the maternity ward has two protected areas. In the past 24 hours since the escalation began, five babies were born. Dr. Ron Lobel, deputy director at Barzilai hospital told Fox News that neonatal unit has been moved yesterday morning to a protected area as well, in order to maintain the high standards of treatment.

Barzilai hospital is prepared, as well as a hospital can be. In February 2018, the new wing of the hospital was opened, and it is now protected, and includes an emergency room, trauma center, x-ray and imaging unit.

Today we are worried about the wounded on both sides of the border, especially children, whose psychological wounds may take much longer to heal than any physical ones.

In the past 24 hours, the emergency room crews have treated well over 100 patients, all of them were wounded during the constant barrage of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel. Medical personnel working under such circumstances are courageous and focused, but feel the emotional impact of the attacks, especially when the hospital itself is hit.

Further, the impact on the country goes well beyond those who are physically injured. The Jerusalem Post reported a 150 percent increase in calls to the NATAL Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center as of Sunday morning, with many of the calls coming from Israeli residents living in Gaza border communities.

Parents are seeking guidance for their anxious children. According to reports, more than 200,000 children are home from school. Sunday classes were cancelled. With sirens going off at regular intervals for over a day, the entire country is on alert. The Ministry of Health has opened a trauma center in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel. Rishon Lezion, a city outside Tel Aviv and 25 miles from the Gaza border, has opened its shelters.


“Israel's hospitals are, unfortunately, very experienced in helping acute trauma survivors, most of whom are fundamentally resilient and regain their health and composure within days or weeks,” Dr. Arieh Shalev, professor of Psychiatry at New York University's Langone Health, told us. “The onus of treating those who keep being haunted by traumatic memories, and the obligation to identify them and refer them to treatment facilities, fall on the entire health-care system and must continue when hostilities are over and attention is shifted to other issues.”

Today we are worried about the wounded on both sides of the border, especially children, whose psychological wounds may take much longer to heal than any physical ones.


Yonat Friling is a producer for Fox News in the Jerusalem Bureau.