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The Al-Shifa Hospital Siege: Exposing IDF Atrocities in Gaza

01/04/24

In the ongoing genocide in Gaza, the health ministry have reported 32,800 Palestinians have been killed and 75,000 injured since Israel initiated its military campaign. 70% of those killed are reported to be women and children. Nowhere is this brutality more evident than in the systematic destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital. Following the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) two-week siege on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the aftermath reveals a tale of destruction, death, and a blatant disregard for international humanitarian principles. This operation, ostensibly targeting Hamas militants within the hospital’s premises, has instead highlighted the IDF’s severe violations against civilians and medical facilities, directly violating the Geneva Conventions.

 

A Catastrophic Human Toll

The al-Shifa Hospital complex, established in 1946 and renowned as Palestine’s largest medical facility, was left in ruins. The newly built special surgery unit has been completely demolished. The further units that have suffered destruction include the kidney and maternity buildings, the morgues, refrigeration facilities, and the outpatient clinics building. Reports from Gaza’s health ministry reported a grim scene where dozens of bodies were discovered, and adjacent areas were completely leveled.  This stark devastation starkly contrasts with the Israeli Defense Forces’ (IDF) assertion that their campaign resulted in the elimination of 200 “terrorists”. Eyewitness accounts and statements from Gaza’s health ministry offer a chilling counter-narrative of widespread destruction and significant civilian harm. The Gaza media office said the IDF had killed 400 Palestinians in and around  al-Shifa. It is understood that more than 6,000 civilians had been in the hospital complex at the onset of the raid. Among the tragic losses was a female doctor and her son, both of whom played pivotal roles in Gaza’s healthcare provision. Their deaths underscore not only the human cost of the conflict but also the profound impact on the region’s medical services. [1]

 

Eyewitness Accounts: Tales of Despair and Horror

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported on Sunday night that 21 patients had died, as they were relocated multiple times and left without medical attention. Survivors’ accounts from the siege vividly illustrate the brutality of the IDF’s actions. Dr. Amira al-Safady, speaking to BBC’s Gaza Lifeline radio from al-Shifa, mentioned that approximately 16 individuals from the intensive care unit passed away after being transferred, as the medical staff lacked the necessary equipment to treat them. She recounted that three days later, soldiers instructed medical personnel to bury the deceased patients outside.[1]

Patient Barra al-Shawish, speaking to Reuters news agency, disclosed that Israeli troops permitted only a “very small amount of food” to enter the hospital. He lamented the absence of treatment, medication, and continuous bombing, which caused extensive destruction within the hospital premises. [1]

According to a medic at al-Shifa, some patients were being transferred to al-Ahli hospital, situated approximately 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) southeast of al-Shifa. Raed al-Nims, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS), informed Al-Jazeera of the severe conditions, stating that some medical personnel were killed, others subjected to torture, and some detained. Eyewitness testimonies and official reports indicate that numerous civilians, including medical staff such as doctors and nurses, were deliberately targeted and killed by Israeli forces. “We have not yet obtained precise figures, but it is undeniable that many were either directly killed by Israeli forces or died due to starvation,” al-Nims stated.

Last week, Israeli military spokesperson Daniel Hagari claimed that those apprehended at al-Shifa were “significant Hamas officials.” Israel has not yet offered any evidence to support these allegations. Hagari stated that Israel is withholding the identities of those detained because they possess valuable intelligence. [2]

 

Testimony from a British Surgeon at al-Shifa

In his interview from 1st of April on ‘Democracy Now with Amy Goodman,’ British Palestinian reconstructive surgeon Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who spent over a month treating patients at Al-Shifa and Al-Ahli Baptist hospitals, highlighted the devastating impact of the destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. He emphasised that Shifa accounted for 30% of the health system’s capacity in Gaza. Abu-Sittah condemned the deliberate destruction of Shifa as a critical aspect of Israel’s plan to render Gaza uninhabitable, even after a ceasefire. He asserted that by rendering Shifa irreparable, Israel aims to ensure that Gaza lacks a functional health system for years to come. He commented how, “The destruction of Shifa, the wanton destruction of Shifa, is a critical component of Israel’s plan to genocidally make sure that Gaza becomes an uninhabitable place even after a ceasefire happens.” He further stated, “For years to come, Gaza does not have a functioning health system.” Abu-Sittah estimated that the process of demolishing Shifa and constructing a new hospital could take three to five years, perpetuating suffering for Gaza’s residents. He labeled this strategy as part of a genocidal machine. [3]

Abu-Sittah also criticised Western journalists for perpetuating narratives that justified targeting hospitals like Shifa. He accused them of enabling genocide by accepting Israeli claims that Shifa served as a command-and-control center. He blamed these journalists, including those from CNN, BBC, and ITV, for facilitating the destruction of the health system in Gaza. Abu-Sittah remarked, “These genocide enablers, these Western journalists, from the very beginning, peddled these stories that the Israelis were feeding them about Shifa being on top of this massive complex of a command-and-control center.” He added, “The genocide can only take place if the health system is destroyed.” Abu-Sittah held them responsible for the loss of lives, including that of his friend Ahmad Maqadmeh, a fellow surgeon who was found killed today alongside his mother at Al-Shifa, whose blood he metaphorically attributed to the hands of these journalists. [3]

When asked for his perspective on the Washington Post’s report regarding the recent authorisation by the Biden administration for the transfer of billions of dollars in weaponry to Israel, which includes a substantial arms package comprising over 1,800 MK-84 2,000-pound bombs capable of causing extensive damage to urban areas, along with 500 MK-82 500-pound bombs and 25 F-35 fighter jets, Dr. Ghassan remarked, “Upon exiting the harrowing reality of Gaza and re-entering the outside world, one comes to the stark realisation that Israel represents merely the visible portion of a larger genocidal agenda. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, and other NATO nations constitute the broader framework of this genocidal enterprise. They not only support Israel but actively endorse its genocidal objectives.” He further quoted the Colombian president’s statement, suggesting that these nations aim to deter any dissenting indigenous group from challenging the established global order. [3]

Dr. Ghassan emphasised that discussions on genocide should extend beyond viewing Israelis as the sole perpetrators, referring to the “Axis of Genocide,” comprised of these nations and governments that perpetuate such acts. He cited additional reports revealing extensive intelligence sharing with Israel, facilitating its actions in carrying out massacres. He concluded by asserting that the genocide against the Palestinian people is a collaborative effort involving American, British, French, and European entities, with Israel serving as the primary but not exclusive executor.

 

The Cry for Justice

In a world that prides itself on upholding human rights and international law, the siege on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City serves as a damning indictment of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and the complicit Western governments. The deliberate targeting and destruction of a vital healthcare facility, along with the loss of countless innocent lives, represent a flagrant violation of basic humanitarian principles. The IDF’s actions, characterised by indiscriminate bombings and the targeting of medical personnel and infrastructure, amount to nothing short of war crimes. The wanton disregard for civilian lives and the systematic destruction of essential services epitomise the brutality of the occupation and the callousness of those responsible.

Furthermore, the complicity of Western governments in endorsing and enabling Israel’s actions cannot be overlooked. By providing military support, diplomatic cover, and propagating narratives that justify such atrocities, these governments are complicit in perpetuating the cycle of violence and oppression in Gaza. The international community must unequivocally condemn the actions of the IDF and hold accountable those responsible for these egregious violations of human rights and international law. Failure to do so not only perpetuates injustice but also undermines the credibility of the very principles that underpin global peace and stability. It is time for the world to stand in solidarity with the people of Gaza and demand an end to the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.

[1] Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital in ruins after two-week Israeli raid. (2024). BBC News. [online] 1 Apr. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-68705765.‌

[2] Middle East Eye. (2024). Israeli troops withdraw from al-Shifa hospital, leaving piles of dead bodies. [online] Available at: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/israel-troops-withdraw-al-shifa-leaving-pile-dead-bodies.

[3] Democracy Now! (2024). Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah on Israel’s ‘Genocidal Machine’ Destroying Gaza’s Hospitals. [online] Available at: https://www.democracynow.org/2024/4/1/gaza_hospital_destruction_al_shifa.

Tariq Kurd was born and grew up in Hertfordshire. His family is originally from Halabja, Kurdistan but due to periodic migration currently reside across the Baluchistan region.
He has a BA Hons. in History from the Open University. Besides English, Tariq can speak Baluchi and Brahvi, he is also conversant in Persian and Pashto.
His has an eclectic range of interests including military and tribal history. Tariq lives in London and is currently studying Islamic apologetics through the Sapience Institute.