As the presence of hostile militants in hospitals has been cited as a justification for attacks on some hospitals in Gaza by Israel’s forces, let this be stated loud and clear—even if some militants manage to sneak into a hospital where many have taken shelter, this cannot provide a justification for any attack on hospitals. If some hostile militants are receiving treatment at a hospital along with others, then this also cannot provide justification for any attack or any other hostile actions against a hospital which can harm its ability to provide emergency care. This is all the more true in the case of Gaza where hospitals have been functioning under extremely difficult conditions to provide emergency care to many such patients who may die if there is any further collapse of the already precarious life-saving conditions available in the hospitals here.
The available reports suggest that the most urgent humanitarian concerns have been neglected and violated in the course of the recent attack by Israel. Any assurances of a pause, although welcome as a last resort when every other relief has been denied, cannot by themselves ensure safety for very badly threatened people. The killing of about 10,000 persons including about 5,000 children, the displacement of nearly a million and inflicting of extreme hardships and risks on almost the entire people of Gaza, to the extent of denying the most basic needs of food, water and sanitation to them, will be described by future historians as one of the worst chapters of human distress caused by highly unjust ad cruel actions of others.
All voices of peace can agree on four important priorities for the path ahead—
Firstly, immediate ceasefire and end of all hostilities on all sides is needed.
Secondly, this should be followed by a big relief and rehabilitation effort. Displaced people should be able to return to their home (or near the site of their destroyed home) in conditions of safety and a big relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction effort should start there, led by equipping hospitals with all needed facilities.
Thirdly, it should be ensured that there should be no restarting or wider spread of violence and conflict.
Fourthly, not to be forgotten, all civilian hostages of Israel taken on October 7 should be released in conditions of safety and dignity.
There can be agreement on these four basic points among all voices of peace so that the strength of these voices of peace can increase. Each and every voice of peace is important in these difficult times.
Finally, one difficult question remains. Who will administer Gaza in the immediate aftermath of ceasefire and to oversee at least the initial phase of the longer-term relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction effort that will be needed here. Most likely it should be the United Nations, which must play a more active role beyond issuing statements of concern. The presence of the United Nations and its agencies can make it possible for the relief and rehabilitation effort to be mobilized on a big enough scale, with generous help coming from several countries.
Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Protecting Earth for Children, Earth without Borders, Planet in Peril and A Day in 2071.