Gaza hospitals-cum-graves

Alaa Al-Mashharawi, Thursday 30 Nov 2023

Israel has declared war on Gaza’s hospitals in a bid to ensure that Palestinians injured in its attacks on the Strip will not escape.

Gaza hospitals-cum-graves

 

Israel has been deliberately targeting Gaza hospitals during its assault on the Strip that has been ongoing for almost two months now.

The Israeli aggression has involved missiles, artillery, and naval bombardments, resulting in the destruction of medical facilities. Doctors, nurses, patients, and displaced people seeking refuge from the bombings are either dead or injured, and Israel’s massacres and horrific atrocities go on.

The aggression has extended to the deliberate destruction of critical medical equipment, including X-ray machines, as well as oxygen machines and their generators, rendering them inoperable.

Hospitals have turned into mass graves, all under the pretext of accusing them of serving as command centres for Hamas. This justification has proven baseless, as subsequent tank incursions and searches have yielded no evidence supporting the claims.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health, alongside entities such as the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), non-governmental organisations, and the private sector, play a pivotal role in providing primary healthcare to the 2.3 million people residing in the Gaza Strip.

About 35 hospitals serve Gaza residents, with a ratio of 1.59 hospitals per 100,000 people. The hospitals include 13 government hospitals, 17 non-governmental hospitals, two affiliated with the Ministry of Interior and National Security, and three private hospitals.

The distribution covers five areas, with 18 hospitals in Gaza City, six in Khan Younis, five in the northern Gaza Strip, and three each in Deir Al-Balah and Rafah.

Since the onset of the war on 7 October, Israel has been accusing Hamas of using the hospitals to conceal its facilities. Israeli army Spokesman Daniel Hagari has reiterated this accusation, claiming that Hamas exploits hospitals for terrorist purposes and to hide its war machinery.

Hamas has repeatedly denied the Israeli claims, calling for the UN to establish an international committee to inspect the hospitals in the Gaza Strip and verify Israel’s accusations, and describing them as “fallacies and baseless lies.”

Workers in Gaza’s pharmaceutical sector have raised the alarm about the imminent depletion of medicines due to the closure of crossings and the relentless targeting of hospitals, medical centres, and warehouses. This forewarns of an additional catastrophe, compounding the daily disasters the Strip has been enduring as a result of the ongoing war.

Ali Al-Rafati, a pharmacy owner in Gaza City, described “the severe shortage of essential medicines. For the past 45 days, managing operations has been an arduous task. The critical issue lies in the unavailability of 75 per cent of basic medicines, leaving only medications requested on a monthly basis.”

“The aid reaching the Gaza Strip falls short. We are pleading for the delivery of aid without restrictions.”

International organisations have warned against the dire situation in the hospitals, now functioning as morgues due to the relentless Israeli attacks. The aggression on Gaza has left over 20,000 Palestinians dead and 31,000 injured, with over half of them still awaiting discharge.

The Gaza Strip’s hospitals are overwhelmed and out of service, with pleas for assistance to halt the direct targeting by the Israeli army going unanswered.

The Israeli NGO Physicians for Human Rights has reported threats to the lives of 37 premature infants in the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza.

It said it had received disturbing reports that the hospital is out of electricity, water, and oxygen. The Israeli bombings have inflicted damage on the hospital’s intensive care unit and sole generator. The neonatal intensive care unit has ceased functioning, resulting in a large number of deaths among newborns.

The UN Population Fund, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have jointly called for “urgent international action” to halt the Israeli attacks on hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell stressed the importance of protecting hospitals, medical supplies, and civilians in medical facilities in Gaza.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths asserted that hospitals in Gaza should be safe havens, not battlegrounds, and condemned the unacceptable targeting of patients and civilians, demanding an immediate end to such actions.

AL-SHIFA HOSPITAL

The Al-Shifa Hospital is situated within the largest government medical complex in northern Gaza.

The complex encompasses three principal hospitals: the Surgery Hospital, the Internal Medicine Hospital, and the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Hospital. Situated in the Al-Rimal neighbourhood on the west coast, the complex dates back to 1946 during the British Mandate in Palestine.

With a total clinical capacity of 564 beds, the complex has faced an overwhelming influx since the commencement of the war on Gaza, receiving more than 3,000 patients daily and far exceeding its capacity. The complex is staffed by approximately 1,500 employees.

Israeli tanks have blockaded all routes leading to the Al-Shifa Hospital, tightening control over its entrances. On 15 November, the Israeli army forcibly entered the Al-Shifa Hospital after days of siege and nightly raids targeting its surroundings.

Ashraf Al-Qudra, spokesman of the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Al-Ahram Weekly that Israel completely obliterated the Cardiology Department building at the Al-Shifa Hospital when tens of thousands of displaced, wounded, and stranded patients were inside.

The destruction included the bombing of CT scan machines, oxygen equipment, and the main generator. Hospital facilities were vandalised, and mass graves within the premises were disturbed, he added.

He condemned the WHO’s role in coordinating the evacuation convoy of doctors, nurses, and injured people from the Al-Shifa Hospital and held it accountable for the fate of Director Mohamed Abu Salmiya, who was detained at a checkpoint in the central Gaza Strip.

The WHO stated that Abu Salmiya was arrested on 22 November, alongside five other health workers, during a UN-led mission for patient evacuation. Among those arrested were three members of the medical staff from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and three from the Ministry of Health. The WHO called for the full respect of their rights.

On 17 October, Israeli forces bombed the Baptist Hospital, claiming the lives of nearly 500 people, primarily children and women, and leaving hundreds wounded.

BAPTIST HOSPITAL

The Baptist Hospital, established in 1882 by an English-affiliated missionary, is the oldest hospital in the Gaza Strip.

Located in the Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood in northern Gaza, it is situated near the Church of St Porphyrius.

The hospital comprises 80 beds. It includes an emergency unit, general and orthopedic surgery, maternity services, burn care, outpatient clinics, a mammography clinic, a pharmacy, laboratory services, physiotherapy, and radiology.

Due to the severe shortage of medical supplies, the depletion of fuel, and the Israeli army’s siege on 16 November, as reported by the Palestinian Red Crescent, the hospital was forced to cease operations.

AL-QUDS HOSPITAL

Established in 2001 in the Tal Al-Hawa neighbourhood in Gaza City, the Al-Quds Hospital is operated by the Palestinian Red Crescent in the Gaza Strip.

With a clinical capacity of approximately 120 beds, it offers comprehensive health services, including departments for internal medicine, paediatrics, maternity, nursery, intensive care, and radiology, along with outpatient clinics covering various specialties.

The Palestine Red Crescent had previously announced that Israeli army vehicles and tanks were blockading the surroundings of the Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City, subjecting it to bombings. The attacks threatened the evacuation of the hospital, including patients, medical staff, and displaced people seeking refuge from the shelling.

The hospital is out of service, reported the Palestine Red Crescent, due to the depletion of fuel and power outages. According to reports earlier this week, Israeli forces are intensifying their presence around the hospitals of northern Gaza.

INDONESIAN HOSPITAL

The Indonesian Hospital and other medical facilities in Gaza have endured Israeli threats to evacuate.

The hospital’s vicinity was bombed on 28 October, with the Israeli army presenting satellite images alleging the presence of a missile launch base operated by Hamas 75 m apart.

Israel’s targeting of the hospital resulted in the killing of dozens of displaced Palestinians and medical staff, in addition to fatalities among the 2,600 injured people in the hospital.

This prompted Indonesia to condemn the Israeli attack, stating that “this assault constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law.”

Situated in the Jabalia Palestinian Refugee Camp in the northern Gaza Strip, the hospital was established in 2014 by the Indonesian Mercy Foundation with the funding of the Indonesian people. The hospital’s establishment was in response to the Israeli war on Gaza in 2008.

It operates with a capacity of 110 beds, including surgical, internal medicine, and orthopaedic units, along with 10 intensive care beds. The hospital is equipped with a state-of-the-art CT scan machine, which is the most advanced in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Red Crescent announced that the hospital is out of service due to a lack of fuel and a power outage. It remains isolated from its surroundings after the severing of access roads and the persistence of the Israeli bombings, resulting in the destruction of surrounding buildings and streets.

OTHER FACILITIES

The Israeli army has targeted the Al-Nour Medical Complex, housing the administrative buildings of the Palestinian Red Crescent, along with Al-Quds Hospital. This has resulted in fires breaking out.

The Kamal Adwan Hospital, the largest in the northern Gaza Strip, has been directly targeted by Israeli aircraft during the ongoing aggression. This government hospital, situated in Beit Lahia in northern Gaza, was opened in 2002.

The Ministry of Health expanded the hospital’s emergency departments on 16 March to serve 100,000 people in the northern Gaza Strip. The hospital has been under continuous Israeli attack since the onset of the war.

Three doctors lost their lives due to the Israeli bombing of the Al-Awda Hospital. Tens of people, including injured patients, also died in the attack.

The courtyards and facilities of the hospital spent a harrowing night hours before last week’s ceasefire, after being deliberately targeted by Israeli forces. The deliberate attack caused substantial damage to the central warehouse building, resulting in the destruction of medicines, supplies, medical consumables, ambulances, and emergency vehicles.

The third and fourth floors of the hospital, the solar energy system, and the water tanks were destroyed.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 30 November, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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