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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

"Hospitals are not battlegrounds": International condemnation grows as Israel raids al-Shifa

Brazil's Lula says Israel is committing the "equivalent of terrorism" in Gaza while both South Africa and Türkiye say they may refer Israel to the ICC.



According to Al Jazeera, the Israeli army raided al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City on Wednesday, following a series of attacks around the hospital. The raid has been described as brutal, with patients, staff, and displaced people being subjected to violence and humiliation . Witnesses have reported that the raid has brought “terror and death” to the thousands trapped inside.


Dr. Muhammad Zaqout, director general of Gaza hospitals, told Al Jazeera media: "Not a single bullet was fired from inside the hospital during the occupation forces' storming of the complex."


Gaza's government media office termed the Israeli raid on the hospital as "a war crime and a crime against humanity," in a statement. ''The Israeli army raided the hospital despite the presence of nearly 9,000 medical staff, patients, and displaced people inside the complex,"


While Israel claims that Hamas uses the hospital and its grounds for operations it has to date produced no credible evidence to prove this.


Common Dreams reports that on "Tuesday, according to Gaza officials, around 170 bodies were buried in a mass grave in the courtyard of al-Shifa, as there was no other way to safely bury them outside the hospital compound because of Israeli attacks and firefights with Hamas. A surgeon at the hospital told Reuters that, due to lack of refrigeration, the bodies "were generating an unbearable stench and posing a risk of infection."


"The Health Ministry said 40 patients, including three babies, have died since Shifa's emergency generator ran out of fuel Saturday," The Associated Press reported Wednesday. "Another 36 babies are at risk of dying because there is no power for incubators, according to the ministry.""


The World Health Organization has denounced the raid: "Israel’s military incursion into Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City is totally unacceptable.


Hospitals are not battlegrounds.


We are extremely worried for the safety of staff and patients. Protecting them is paramount.

WHO has lost contact with health workers at Al-Shifa."


Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of the WHO said: "one thing is clear: under international humanitarian law, health facilities, health workers, ambulances and patients must be safeguarded and protected against all acts of war."


"Not only that, but they must be actively protected during military planning.


Even if health facilities are used for military purposes, the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality always apply.


The safety of patients and staff, as well as the integrity of the health care systems in the wider community, are of paramount concern. International humanitarian law must be respected"


Jennifer Cassidy, a legal expert from the University of Oxford, says targeting medical facilities is a war crime “plain and simple”.


“Even if we take everything the Israeli government is saying to be true [about Hamas using al-Shifa], it is still a war crime because the proportionality and the outcome effect in relation to the gains they are achieving still is breaking international law. And they’re actually providing that evidence in real-time. They’re essentially making a case against themselves,” Cassidy told Al Jazeera.


Meanwhile international condemnation is growing as the relentless and indiscriminate Israeli bombing campaign -- which has now killed well over 11,000 people -- continues, with Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva saying Tuesday that Israel is committing the "equivalent of terrorism" in Gaza.


"Israel's attitude toward children, toward women, is the equivalent of terrorism. There's no other way to put it," Lula said in his weekly social media address.


"If I know a place is full of children, even if there's a monster inside, I can't kill the children just because I want to kill the monster."


Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, issued some of his strongest words yet against the war in Gaza describing it as "barbaric" and a "genocide".


“We are facing together a barbaric war of aggression and an open war of genocide against our people in the Gaza Strip and in the West Bank,” he said in a speech marking the 35th anniversary of the Palestinian declaration of independence in Ramallah.


“It is a war against the existence of the Palestinians, against the Palestinian national identity, the identity of the land and the identity of its inhabitants."


“Palestine is our only homeland that we will not accept as an alternative, and if there is anyone who must leave our land, it is the occupation, and only the occupation,” he continued.


On Wednesday, South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor stated that there are “very clear similarities” between the apartheid system in South Africa and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. She has also said that her government may refer Israel to the International Criminal Court.


“We know people cannot own property and it can be seized without any compensation, which is what we experienced in our own country. People have to carry identity documents that reflect their ethnicity rather than citizenship. All of this is part of the apartheid feature,” Pandor explained.


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan slammed Israel again and called it a "terror state."


"Israel is implementing a strategy of total destruction of a city and its people by deliberately targeting schools, mosques, churches, hospitals, markets, buildings and streets," Erdoğan told members of the ruling AK Party in Ankara on Wednesday.


He also said that Türkiye will take steps to ensure that political and military leaders who "ruthlessly" massacred people in Gaza face trial in the international courts.


A petition launched on Tuesday by Ione Belarra, Spanish minister for social rights, calling on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Israeli leaders for genocide now has over 27,500 signatures: Spain's Ione Belarra and other Left politicians launch petition to investigate Israel for genocide (theleftchapter.com)

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