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14 December 2023

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The Scandal of Israel’s War on Hospitals

What occurred at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza can only be described as a scandal. The Israeli army falsely portrayed al-Shifa hospital as the centre of the Hamas leadership. The Israeli Government claimed that al-Shifa was used as a storage for weapons and explosives and that hundreds of fighters were hiding there and supposedly using patients as ‘human shields.’ They also claimed that Israeli hostages were being held at the hospital.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli occupation forces made it seem that the attack on al-Shifa hospital with military tanks, after it had been bombed with planes, was a takeover of the main strongholds the Hamas resistance. In reality, none of this was true. No Israeli captives were found at al-Shifa hospital, nor was it a centre for the Hamas leadership, nor were there any resistance fighters hiding there or any storage of weapons.

The only thing the Israeli army found were children who were struggling and in urgent need of incubators and oxygen generators that were bombed by the Israeli military. They also found the patients of the intensive care units who were dying one after the other because the respirators were damaged as well as the victims of the vicious and indiscriminate Israeli air strikes against civilians who could not be treated because the electricity has been cut from the hospital making it impossible for doctors to operate on patients. 

Dialysis patients were also unable to get treatment or use the dialysis machines because of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the power cut imposed by Israel, and the Israeli government’s refusal to allow fuel into the Gaza strip. Because of the constant air strikes, attacks of the Israeli tanks, and Israeli snipers who shot at civilians, there were thousands of bodies of innocent Palestinian civilians that are rotting in the streets. 

No one could reach these corpses that need to be buried, creating a serious public health problem. It is clear that the Israeli army gives no weight to human life and is actively engaging in an attack on innocent civilians.

Palestine Poster

  • A poster at a recent Palestine Solidarity Rally reading "It's ethnic cleansing not a 'conflict'".

The Israeli occupiers have tried to cover up the human rights abuses they have committed at the ‘Abd al-‘Aziz al-Rantisi’s Children’s Hospital by fabricating photos and making false claims that are not believed by anyone, including an image of a handwritten calendar that listed the days and dates of the week, which they claimed was a schedule for the Hamas fighters who were supposedly guarding the so called ‘Israeli captives’ which were not even in the hospital. No evidence was found that the captives had been kept in any of the hospitals.

After 24 hours of the Israeli overtake of al-Shifa hospital, the Israeli army still could not find any evidence that prisoners were kept there. Despite this, the Israeli army destroyed the facilities of the hospital. Afterwards, they tried to fabricate evidence of the so-called weapons supposedly discovered in the hospital, but it quickly became evident (with photo and video footage) that these weapons were planted by the Israeli army in the hospital to justify their genocidal warfare on Gazan civilians. Even those sympathetic to Israel were not deceived by these actions, these allegations have been denied by the Washington Post, the New York Times, the American CNN, and the British BBC.

These false claims that were made by the Israeli officials, have led to an unprecedented degree of the humiliation of being caught in such an obvious lie, not only for Israel but also the American intelligence services that have propagated this false information.

Palestine mother

  • A poster at a recent Palestine rally shows a mother holding her young child who passed away after Israel's onslaught in Gaza

It has become clear that this vicious and inhumane Israeli attack on hospitals and its breaking of international law has three main aims:

First, it shows that Israeli government has no regard for international law and have no issue with committing war crimes. As stated by Netanyahu, there is no place that Israel considers off limits. Such a statement is not surprising by a government that is committing three war crimes at the same time: collective punishment, ethnic cleansing, and genocide.

The second aim was to destroy the hospitals in Gaza and the educational and health centres in the Northern part of Gaza, especially Gaza City in an attempt to destroy the infrastructure and the entire area, thus making it uninhabitable. The aim was to make it impossible for people to return to their homes in the Northern part of Gaza. This was confirmed by the fact that the Israeli army forced the medical teams and patients to leave al-Shifa Hospital under the threat of weapons and military tanks with little concern for the fact that many patients and those who were wounded by Israeli attacks were too sick to walk or the fact that many of these patients will die if they do not have access to medical equipment.

The third and most important aim was to ethnically cleanse Gaza by exiling hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza City in the north and the surrounding areas who sought shelter in al-Shifa, al-Rantisi, and al-Quds hospitals. These civilians were forced to walk several kilometres in brutal conditions, a horrifying image that will condemn the Israeli leaders and military when they are tried at the international criminal court one day.

SF Palestine

  • Sinn Féin have been consistent in their support for Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people.

Israel has damaged 26 hospitals from a total of 36 that operate in the Gaza Strip with bombing, destruction, siege, and the cutting of fuel, electricity, water, medicine, and medical supplies. It has destroyed over 60 ambulances and killed no less than 200 doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. It has destroyed 56 medical centres among home al-Shfia Hospital, which is the one of the largest medical centres in Palestine.

It is no coincidence that doctors all over the world from Ramallah to Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, have organized demonstrations in solidarity with Palestinian doctors and medical staff, which is part of much needed solidarity and aid to Palestine.

At the time of writing over 17, 000 Palestinian human beings have been killed in Gaza; most of them are children and women. More than 7,000 people are missing, believed to be lost under the rubble. Over 270 Palestinian citizens have been killed in the West Bank since 7 October. Israel’s war in Gaza is a war against hospitals and humanity.

I was very moved by an image I saw on the television of a thirteen-year-old Palestinian child from Gaza who was crying and yelling after the Israeli shelling killed her mother, father, and three of her siblings. The only survivors were this girl and three of her younger siblings, the youngest of which is an infant and she said that no one was left to take care of these children but her and she questioned how she, herself still a child, will be their father, mother, and sister, as there was no one else left to care for them.

Those who ordered and participated in the carrying out of these were crimes will pay for these crimes against humanity. Only time can tell when and how, but in the end justice must prevail.

  • Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is the General Secretary and co-founder of Palestinian National Initiative (PNI), describes the recent events that have occurred at the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza as a scandal.

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti

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