'Russian roulette of how you want to be killed': Doctor on situation in Gaza

PHOTO: Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Dec. 5, 2023.PlayHatem Ali/AP
WATCH 'Russian roulette of how you want to be killed:' Doctor on situation in Gaza

ABC News' Linsey Davis spoke with Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric intensive care physician with Doctors without Borders, about what she and other aid workers have seen in Gaza since the end of the cease-fire.

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The end of the cease-fire on Friday came after Hamas freed over 100 of the more than 200 people its militants took hostage during the Oct. 7 surprise attack on Israel. In exchange, Israel released more than 200 Palestinians from Israeli prisons.

Haj-Hassan described in an interview Monday how doctors have seen children whose limbs have been blown off in the bombings, disease, and lack of sanitation amid the war.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You've been in contact with medical professionals who are on the ground there in Gaza. Tell us what they've described seeing in the few days since the ceasefire ended on Dec. 1.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: They describe a horrific situation, bombardment that perhaps even surpasses the brutality of the bombardment prior to the cease-fire. Over 1.8 million Gazans are now displaced in the south. That's over 80% of the Gazan population, which prior to Oct. 7 was one of the most densely populated areas on Earth. So, you can imagine this entire population or the majority of the population now displaced south, living in makeshift shelters, [and] overcrowded UN schools.

I said something about people living in tents and they said 'We wish it was just tents.' People are sleeping on the pavements in the middle of the street. The people in tents are the lucky ones.

PHOTO: Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Dec. 5, 2023. Hatem Ali/AP
Palestinians fleeing the Israeli ground offensive arrive in Rafah, Gaza Strip, on Dec. 5, 2023.

And I want to remind you it's winter now. So it's quite cold. Prior to the end of the truce, they described being very cold and out looking for a jacket or warm pajamas for their family members, because when they fled they left with only the clothes on their back

They describe horrible living situations. They are unable to dispose of waste. There is no sanitation. There's outbreak of disease, diarrheal disease…There are reports of hepatitis A. One of my colleagues described being afraid that he was seeing outbreaks of cholera, but there was no way to confirm [or] to test. And children [are] very thirsty, walking around asking for people to fill their bottles of water because they're thirsty.

People are very hungry. They don't have access to food and the places they're being asked to evacuate, many of them are no man's land. There's no access to food or any water, clean or unclean, in the areas they're being asked to evacuate to.

Really, it's a death sentence. It's a Russian roulette of how you want to be killed.

ABC NEWS LIVE: You mentioned a Russian roulette of how you want to die and I am curious when you talk about the medical capacity-- are there functioning hospitals in the north or central Gaza at this point?

HAJ-HASSAN: I think it depends on how you define functional. These are some of the most dedicated medical providers I have ever met. So even prior to the entry of the little bits of fuel that were coming in, they were continuing to treat patients without electricity, without painkillers. They were continuing to treat patients in any way possible.

We received pictures of children with multiple limbs being blown off, one or two limbs remaining. This is what they are having to deal with. Of the seven people she said she treated that day in the operating room with bilateral amputations, two of them were children. One age 2, and one age 11.

PHOTO: Palestinian children queue to collect water amid water shortages during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, December 5, 2023. Mohammed Salem/Reuters
Palestinian children queue to collect water amid water shortages during the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, December 5, 2023.

They're seeing patients coming in with infected wounds from previous injuries sustained in the last weeks and dressings that have not been changed because they don't have the medical capacity to change them.

They described running out of medications to treat diabetes, hypertension, [and] heart disease. [These are] all of the chronic diseases that you need regular medications for to maintain or to control the disease, they cannot treat anymore. So patients are dying from things that you otherwise would not die from in a functioning health care system.

I just want to end with a couple of things. What we are seeing at the moment is such a flagrant disregard for international humanitarian law and for civilian life. It endangers us all ultimately. It will embolden others to do the same. And I just want to say we have to have a permanent cease-fire.