Assault on hospitals

Kathy Kelly
Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

Many decades ago in Chicago, my favorite of several part-time student jobs was operating the ‘old-style’ telephone switchboard at a small hospital called Forkosh Memorial.

The console of coils and plugs included a mirror so operators could keep an eye on the hospital entrance, which on weekends and evenings was also monitored by an elderly, unarmed security guard named Frank. He sat at a classroom style desk near the entrance with a ledger book.

Over the course of four years, on weekends and evenings, ‘security’ at the hospital generally consisted solely of Frank and me. Fortunately, nothing much ever happened. The possibility of an attack, invasion, or raid never occurred to us. The notion of an aerial bombardment was unimaginable, like something out of War of the Worlds or some other sci-fi fantasy.

Now, tragically, hospitals in Gaza and the West Bank have been attacked, invaded, bombed, and destroyed. News of additional Israeli attacks is being reported on a daily basis.

Last week, Democracy Now! interviewed Dr Yasser Khan, a Canadian ophthalmologist and eye surgeon who recently returned from a humanitarian surgical mission at the European Hospital in Khan Younis in Gaza. Dr Khan spoke of bombings taking place every few hours resulting in a constant influx of mass casualties.

The majority of patients he treated were children from age 2 to 17. He saw horrific eye injuries, shattered faces, shrapnel wounds, abdominal injuries, limbs severed above the bone, and traumas caused by drone-launched laser-guided missiles. Amid the overcrowding and chaos, healthcare workers tended to patients while lacking basic equipment, including anesthesia. Patients lay on the ground in unsterile conditions, vulnerable to infection and disease. Most of them also suffered from severe hunger.

Normally, a child who undergoes an amputation faces as many as 12 additional surgeries. Khan wondered who would do the follow-up care for these children, some of whom have no surviving relatives.

He also noted sniper fire prevented doctors from going to work. “They’ve killed healthcare workers, nurses, paramedics; ambulances have been bombed. This has all been systematic,” Khan explained. “Now there are 10,000 to 15,000 bodies decomposing. It’s the rainy season right now in Gaza, so all the rainwater mixes with the decomposing bodies and that bacteria mixes with the drinking water supply and you get further disease.”

According to Khan, Israeli forces have kidnapped 40 to 45 doctors, specifically targeting specialists and hospital administrators. Three healthcare professional organizations have issued a statement expressing deep concern that the Israeli military has abducted and unlawfully detained Dr Khaled al-Serr, a surgeon at the Nasser Hospital in Gaza.

On February 19, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described conditions in the Nasser hospital after Israel ordered evacuation of Palestinians from the complex. “There are still more than 180 patients and 15 doctors and nurses inside Nasser,” he said. “The hospital is still experiencing an acute shortage of food, basic medical supplies, and oxygen. There is no tap water and no electricity, except a backup generator maintaining some lifesaving machines.”

Excerpted: ‘The US Must Stop Arming

Israel’s Assault on Hospitals’.