10 December 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | Gaza Strip
“We are nearing the point of no return.”
These were the words spoken by nephrologist Dr. Ben Thomson during yesterday’s press conference on ‘urgent healthcare catastrophe in Gaza’ and the public health disaster advancing into its 63rd day in the besieged and bombarded Gaza Strip. With those introductory words, Dr. Thomson announced the breadth of the situation: “Of the 35 hospitals in Gaza, 26 are non functional. 9 remain only partially functional but are operating at more than double their capacity with critical shortages and are providing shelter to thousands of internally displaced people.” Civilians in the north are now cut off from access to emergency medical transport due to the targeted destruction of 100 Red Crescent ambulances, the bombing of ambulance convoys and the strangling cutoff of fuel. At least 364 attacks on healthcare services have been recorded in the occupied Palestinian territory since 7 October 2023.
With tens of thousands of Palestinians wounded and thousands more missing and presumed buried alive in the topsoil of rubble that now marks Gaza’s landscape, many who may be crying out for rescue are left to die. Infrastructure in Gaza hasn’t failed. It has been purposefully destroyed. From ambulances to medical schools, to the region’s only mental health hospital, to the arrests and unknown whereabouts of dozens of doctors and senior medical staff, the targets were executed with precision by occupation forces whose actions are, as noted in the conference, at the “raised risk of atrocity crimes” and in violation of various humanitarian laws and war crimes. Included in the missing medical staff is Al Shifa Hospital Director, Dr Muhammad Abu Salmiya, who was abducted on November 23rd while facilitating the forced evacuation of the hospital. Various rights agencies have expressed concern for the well-being of the doctor who had, until his abduction by occupation forces, been regularly updating the world on the situation in and around the hospital; on the injured, on the dead.
Gaza’s Health Ministry noted on Saturday, December 9th, that 17,487 Palestinians have been massacred, with over 70 percent of the dead being women and children. But that death toll rises by the minute and with thousands missing and the occupation forces targeting and criminalizing the most basic of civic processes occurring across Gaza’s five districts, maintaining count of the deaths has become impossible. And what the occupation army hasn’t destroyed with bombs and guns, it works to achieve through circulating false narratives echoed by world media which doubt reports from Gaza’s health and public officials which are updating the world on the ongoing genocide of the over 2.2 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
On December 8th, shocking images out of the Beit Lahia neighbourhood in northern Gaza depicted the scene of the stripping and abduction of displaced Palestinian civilians from a raided UN school, which included a student, a local shop-owner and a well known journalist. As the world reacted with rightful rage to the horrific acts of the occupation army, an Israeli Occupation Forces spokesperson dismissed inquiries by linking civilians with Hamas, a continued tactic reflecting their view that all Palestinian bodies are inherently ‘terrorist’.
The UN school housing the displaced was just one of numerous facilities across the terrorized Strip sheltering the over 1.7 million displaced through the relentless bombardment. According to the latest numbers on the ground, occupation forces have decimated Gaza’s residential infrastructure including 300,000 housing units, representing over half of the homes in Gaza as noted in the following graphic.
Occupation forces are demanding the mass-displaced squeeze into an area consisting of sand dunes, void of a shred of humanitarian infrastructure, in the southwest region of Al-Mawasi. News from this ‘safe zone’ reveals the horrors of the area, insufficient food, insufficient shelter and a non-reliable water source, equivalent to the occupation army offering Palestinians a slower death which will be introduced through starvation, thirst and infectious disease. Current conditions across Gaza are devoid of sanitation measures as infectious disease begins to take hold in heavily crowded conditions with the bodies of murdered civilians lying in the streets. As reported by the World Food Programme, the situation is dire across the Gaza Strip at large with widespread food and water insecurity including “extremely alarming” consumption gaps experienced by soaring proportions of the population across the Northern and Southern governorates.
Tens of thousands of cases of diarrheal disease have been reported across Gaza with Palestinian children comprising over half of that statistic. Days ago, OCHA released a statement announcing a Hepatitis outbreak in UNRWA shelters which are operating at several times their capacity. As the days pass, illness and deaths from infectious disease are feared to dramatically increase. This signals a multi-system failure of the most basic tenets of humanitarian response to civilians and children caught in conflict: the provision of food, clean water, and medication and protection from hostilities.
In tandem with the dropping of bombs come heart-breaking reports of children crushed in the rubble, entire families gone and, just days ago, the murder of a beloved Palestinian professor. In an instant, explosive flash, We Are Not Numbers co-founder, poet and academic Refaat Alareer’s life was violently ended in an occupation air strike which killed numerous members of his family, including four of his nieces. In the chaos of occupation forces’ bombardment and unpausing of the ‘temporary ceasefire,’ Alareer was vocal against the hostilities and senseless slaughter of civilians.
Lying among the tangled wreckage across the Gaza strip are the remains of 104 Mosques and numerous Churches which have been targeted by occupation airstrikes, even as a flow of IOF-taken video of their opening of a Synagogue inside of a stolen building in Gaza circulates through social media, one of the many instances of racial incitement and antagonism that have been pouring out of the embattled enclave. The sight of the breathtaking, medieval Great Omari Mosque in Gaza had become an iconic one, and which now also tragically lies among the wreckage with its surviving minaret standing before it. And the majestic Saint Porphyrius Greek Orthodox Church, built around 1150, was notably the oldest Church still in use in Gaza and one which was sheltering displaced Palestinian Muslims and Christians during the bombardment, 16 of whose lives were ended within its destroyed walls.
The lives of 63 journalists have thus far been stolen through this conflict. 133 UN aid workers. Over 250 health workers. The numbers increase by the day. And with Israeli authorities vowing to continue this horrific aggression for two more months, the reports will continue to flash before the eyes of the world who are witnessing the living nightmare that Gaza’s population is trapped within. Among the casualties and death and destruction, justice too, lies buried in the rubble.