A Palestinian man, who medics said was wounded by Israeli shelling, is pictured through door slots as he speaks on the phone at a hospital in Gaza City July 23, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)
“We are really hoping to see an end to this aggression; we are barely holding up. It has been very hard and we are in the third week of a very brutal aggression. We are on our own as the world has turned a blind eye to our tragedy,” said Kamal Khattab, medical director of Shohada Al-Aqsa Hospital in the heart of Gaza.
Khattab’s hospital came under direct Israeli military attack two days ago. “It was the worst part of the nightmare. They first attacked the ambulances and then the floors that we have allocated as safe refuge for displaced families whose houses have been burnt down. Then they attacked the upper floors, where we had patients who were barely recovering from operations conducted to save their lives, after having been hurt in the endless attacks,” Khattab said.
“It was criminal; one patient died and many got new wounds. I cannot believe that the world turns a blind eye to such a brutal aggression. In a war, it is not allowed ever to attack hospitals — not under any of the fabricated pretexts that Israel is offering,” Khattab said.
Israel said the attack was designed to eliminate military equipment the Palestinian resistance had hidden in the yard of this central Gaza hospital. “They can come up with whatever stories they wish, to but the fact of the matter is that they attacked the single hospital that provides medical care for some 30,000 residents of central Gaza who had no other medical facility to go to, and that has been trying very hard for over two weeks to desperately provide medical care for the wounded of the Israeli aggression,” Khattab said.
Under the ongoing aggression, the Red Cross and the Palestinian Red Crescent managed to move some of the patients to other hospitals and to try and fix parts of the destroyed sections of Shohada Al-Aqsa Hospital.
“We cannot afford to stop; we have to keep moving. We have to move fast. It is the lives of innocent civilians who are twice attacked by Israel’s aggression — first when they are attacked in what should be the safety of their homes, and then at the hospitals where they are treated — that are at stake,” Khattab said.
According Khattab, the capacity of the hospital to deal with the situation is failing. “We have endured over seven years of a very harsh siege imposed on Gaza. The hospital has suffered much due to this siege that has left most of its equipment, already not modern, barely functioning,” he said.
“During the days of the aggression, surgeons have been rushing gravely wounded civilians into the operation room without having sufficient radiology, as our equipment is half-functioning. Given that the operation rooms are already not sufficiently equipped, due to the severe shortage of medicine and medical equipment, these surgeons face horrendous challenges,” Khattab said.
He added: “They are usually very resilient. Some of them work for over 18 hours non-stop with great resolve. But at times they, too, simply collapse in tears at being handicapped in rescuing the lives of women and children who are hit by Israeli bombs in their homes.”
Complicating the job of the medical doctors, Khattab said, are “the new lethal weapons that the Israeli army is using. Some of these weapons kill immediately, and some kill later, while we are trying to rescue the afflicted. Using these weapons is a violation of international law, but there is no one to defend our people; our people are being killed under the eyes and ears of a world that is not even paying any attention.”
Khattab said that what hurts these “brave doctors and nurses” the most is to see the devastation of brought down on children and women, and some who have lost half or sometimes all of their family members.
These medical teams “are already risking their lives by moving under Israeli bombardment to reach their workplace, and to move the wounded from their attacked houses to hospitals.”
“We need this aggression to come to an end, and until it ends we need our hospitals, our wounded and patients, and our medical teams, to be spared,” Khattab said.
He added: “And we need an end, or at least a break, to this devastating siege, so we can repair our medical equipment that had been worn out by three consecutive wars that Israel has launched against Gaza in six years, while it is under a total and suffocating blockade.”