Israel’s War on Gaza Hospitals

Gaza Palestine bombing of Al Shifa hospital

The health system in Gaza has collapsed as 20 hospitals have come out of service and closed down. Also, 120 clinics and surgeries have also closed down as the merciless bombing of the strip since 7 October. 

The red alarm bells have been going off daily but nobody is listening. The bombing is being directly monitored by the World Health Organization. Its spokesman Margaret Harris confirmed 20 of these hospitals had been shutdown and that the latest is Al Shifaa complex, creating a deep medical crisis in the territory.

The bombing never stops. On Friday morning Al Shifaa Complex was bombed three times. The strikes included the vicinity of the hospital and its maternity section.  Israeli warplanes want it closed down.

Three hospitals bombed

As well, three other hospitals were bombed at the same time. They were the Al Rantisi and Al Nassr (these are children hospitals) as well as the Eye and the Psychiatric Hospitals. These hospitals are very near the Al Shifaa complex and were bombed at the same time as if the deadly military actions are coordinated. The question that begs itself is why bomb and force-closure a psychiatric hospital?

The Israeli war machine has long targeted these hospitals, believing it is the only way to get to Hamas and its Izz Al Din Al Qassam fighters. But they are instead bombing civilians and medical staff and doctors. At least 192 medical staff have been killed and 16 of these were on medical duty stated the Gaza Health Ministry.

Hospitals are now completely empty of the necessary medicines and even equipment because of the Israeli squeeze. The Israeli authorities have shut off all crossing points since 7 October and no goods have been allowed into the territories since then which is seen as pure collective punishment.

They are the latest batch of hospitals to be facing total shutdown and can’t even provide the necessary and simple health facilities like cotton wool and bandages and sterilizations while operations have long been done without anesthesia and with the risk of infection.

Medical shutdown

With no fuel available, these hospitals are operating without lights and many fear they will soon come to a complete stop as was the case with the Al Quds Hospitals which is also due to come to a halt. Worse still, people on ventilations and kidney dialysis are expected to die as soon as these machines go off.

This is the case with the Indonesian hospital further up in the northeast of the Strip and before that the Turkish Friendship Hospital which was the only cancer hospital in Gaza that closed down because of the lack of fuel.

In Gaza, a total of 35 hospitals used to function but these are likely to cease operations if no political solution is found quickly and the conflict doesn’t end now. But the Israeli government is not in the mood to end the war soon and is prepared to continue to bomb the strip till it achieves its objectives of eliminating Hamas which up till now it has not succeeded.

Up till now, over 11,000 civilians were killed with over 4000 children slaughtered, not to mention the women and the elderly. So far, Israeli planes, tanks and ships fired over 32,000 tons of explosives on the territory with 13,000 bombs dropped on the Strip which has been under an Israeli-imposed siege since 2007. Already 40,000 housing units have been reduced to rubble and wreckage with 60 mosques pulverized as well as churches.

This situation has stretched the hospitals beyond their limits as the continual strikes over the past month resulted in the injury of 25,000 people all of which are in need of medical care that doesn’t exist because these hospitals are themselves under the strict Israeli regime and being bombed. 

Extenuating problems

As well, the precarious hospitals are facing two extenuating problems that are inter-related. First, they – especially Al Rantisi and Nasr – are directly facing Israeli tanks that infiltrated different parts of Gaza city. These hospitals are facing Israeli tanks threatening to bomb the displaced people inside them, as well as staff and patients, if they don’t come out.

In turn, the people inside have since demanded international protection by the International Red Cross fearing that if they do leave, they will be bombed.  In Al Shifaa’s case, the Israeli tanks are 1 kilometer away but they are facing the same situation, with its officials saying the Israelis have openly started their war on these medical facilities.

Secondly, the Israeli army have continually warned the people – patients, staff and the displaced which came to assemble in their vicinity – to move to the south of the Gaza Strip to avoid bombardment.

The Netanyahu government and the Israeli army want these hospitals vacated because they insist, they harbor Hamas fighters in their underground bunkers. While the New York-Human Rights Watch says there is no evidence of this and the fact Gaza Health Ministry officials invited international inspectors to investigate, the Israeli army have dismissed this and have been crying wolf.

As well, the Ministry and other doctors say it is very difficult to vacate the Al Shifaa and other hospitals because of the many patients, staff and the thousands of people who flocked to these places because they thought they would be in relatively safe places which the Israelis wouldn’t be bomb. Today it is estimated that 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes, recognizing the fact that Gaza has a population of 2.2 million.

But how wrong they were. Israeli warplanes first bombed the courtyard of the Al Ahli Baptist Hospital where 500 displaced persons were killed instantly. Most of these were women and children. Despite the fact the Israeli army tried to say it was not them and pandering to international public opinion, all the fingers pointed in their direction because of its continual bombing operations and strikes of homes and population centers.

Ever since, Israel has been bombing these hospitals with no compunction under the eyes of the international community and especially the western countries who have turned a black eye to the bloody actions of Israel.

Dr Marwan Asmar is a free-lance journalist based in Amman.

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