Page last updated at 16:01 GMT, Wednesday, 14 May 2008 17:01 UK

Gaza hospital - Emergency shelter

The old Gaza hospital (Photo by Phil Coomes)

Several hundred of the poorest refugee families have ended up living in what remains of the Gaza hospital, a former UN-run institution that was shelled during the 1982 Israeli invasion and subsequently became emergency accommodation for displaced refugees.

With the Gaza building no longer serving as a hospital, refugees must go to the Haifa hospital in Burj al-Barajneh refugee camp. Palestinian refugees are not covered by the Lebanese health insurance system, and few can afford more complicated operations not catered for at Haifa hospital.

The Mohammadi family living in the old Gaza hospital (Photo by Phil Coomes)

Each family is packed into a couple of windowless rooms off a crowded corridor, and many have been living in such conditions for years. They survive on rations given by the UN to "special hardship cases".

The Mohammadi family has been unable to settle anywhere permanently after their original eviction from Safad, now in northern Israel, in 1948.

They lived in the former Tal al-Zaatar camp, squatted in Dammour, were bombed out of Shatila in the 1980s, and squatted again in the nearby Cola area. They have been in Gaza hospital for more than 10 years.

Lying outside the Shatila camp boundaries, the building is subject to strict limits on renovation and refurbishment. Any external additions are forbidden, although the UN has built individual toilets and bathrooms from residents.

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