Editorial: Another moral outrage

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

For six months now, every time we deal with the issue, Israeli atrocities in the occupied Gaza Strip will have reached an unprecedented level.


The death toll has surpassed 32,000; and the governments of the so called civilised world, while providing Israel with arms, funds and diplomatic cover, continue to make hollow statements. But the pit proves bottomless in other ways: Israel has intentionally subjected over 2.3 million Palestinians living in Gaza in the worst human conditions ever seen in a recent war to ever greater suffering and deprivation. The siege of Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, together with the surrounding neighbourhood, has been ongoing for nearly two weeks while the policy of deliberately starving people and denying them medical care, let alone bombing, shooting and torturing them, goes beyond collective punishment and war crimes.

Claims that Hamas leaders and fighters have been using hospitals and schools as hideouts since the start of the genocide have proved to be false. Al-Shifa Hospital in particular, the largest in Gaza, was in the news when the occupation army raided it early on, finding neither weapons nor hostages. Many being treated or sheltering at Al-Shifa Hospital have already been killed, and now some 30,000 people residing there are being forced to flee again with nowhere to go. Medical staff and refugees as well as inmate have a choice of remaining at the hospital while the occupation army razes it to the ground or relinquishing the only shelter available to them with the added risk of interrogation torture or cold-blooded murder. Groups of men were arrested, stripped naked, blindfolded and handcuffed while being questioned by Israeli soldiers. Women and children were separated from the men, and others, including members of the hospital’s medical staff, were made to sit on the ground in a large pit.

Residents of buildings close to the hospital said gunshots, airstrikes and explosions went on non-stop. Doctors and patients were forcibly crammed into the emergency ward while Israeli forces took control of the complex, shooting arbitrarily. Gaza’s Health Ministry said at least 13 patients died as a result of the raid because they were deprived of medicine and treatment, or when their ventilators stopped working after the Israelis cut electricity. The ministry added that patients still in Al-Shifa were in a critical condition, with maggots beginning to infect their wounds. Bodies piled up outside the entrance and in the corridors. The aid group Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that fierce fighting continued around the hospital, “endangering patients, medical staff and people trapped inside with very few supplies”. Witnesses who fled the hospital described fear and deprivation, interrogations and detentions of Palestinian men by Israeli forces, and persistent lack of food and water.

The Director General of the World Health Organisation Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, quoted a doctor in Al-Shifa as saying that two patients on life support died because of lack of electricity, and there was no medicine or basic medical supplies. Many patients in a critical condition had to be left lying on the floor. In one building, 50 medical workers and more than 140 patients have been kept since the second day of the raid, with extremely limited food and water and one nonfunctional toilet, the WHO chief wrote. Tedros added: “Health workers are worried about their own and their patients’ safety… These conditions are utterly inhumane. We call for an immediate end to the siege and appeal for safe access to ensure patients get the care they need.” Confirming that laying siege to hospitals and seeking to incapacitate the few remaining ones was official Israeli army policy, the Palestinian Red Crescent said on Sunday that Israeli forces were “besieging” two more hospitals in the southern city of Khan Younis, Al-Amal and Nasser. The Israeli military was targeting Al-Amal with smoke bombs, and military vehicles were barricading the entrances of the compound, the Red Crescent said.

The simple fact that Israel had to go back again to Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, an area it had already claimed was free of Hamas fighters and under its full control, is a blunt declaration of the failure of its strategy since the beginning of this war. As the war goes on, there seems to be no strategy other than killing more and more Palestinians while levelling all of Gaza’s buildings. That is why more and more countries have come out in opposition to the Israeli army’s planned operation against the city of Rafah, in which more than 1.3 million people are crammed, seeing such an operation as in effect yet another immense massacre of Palestinian civilians. If we add to this the intentional Israeli policy of starving Palestinians and preventing the delivery of much needed humanitarian aid into Gaza, we can understand why UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has rightly stated during his visit to the Egyptian border with Gaza that “Palestinians in Gaza – children, women, men – remain stuck in a non-stop nightmare.”

He noted how standing at the Rafah Crossing reflected “the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates. The long shadow of starvation on the other. That is more than tragic.  It is a moral outrage. Any further onslaught will make everything worse.” He added, “Now more than ever, it is time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. It is time to silence the guns.”

* A version of this article appears in print in the 28 March, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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