Norwegian doctor providing medical assistance in Gaza. He recently recently submitted a report to the United Nations on the state of the Gaza health sector in 2014, titled "Brief Report to UNRWA: The Gaza Health Sector as of June 2014."
independent journalist and Democracy Now! correspondent reporting from Gaza.
In breaking news from the Gaza Strip, at least five people were killed today and dozens wounded when the Israeli military shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. It is at least the third Israeli military attack on a Gaza hospital since the ground invasion on Thursday. Speaking from Gaza’s overrun al-Shifa Hospital, Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert accuses Israel of directly targeting medical facilities. Gilbert helped treat many of the victims of Israel’s attack on the Shejaiya neighborhood, where 72 people were killed. We also speak with Democracy Now! correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, reporting from Gaza City.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined, in addition to Sharif Abdel Kouddous in Gaza City, by Dr. Mads Gilbert, a Norwegian doctor providing medical assistance in Gaza, recently submitted a report to the U.N. on the state of the Gaza health sector this year. Can you talk about what’s happening from where you are right now in Shifa? We didn’t want you to wait; we understand that there are many people waiting to see you.
DR. MADS GILBERT: Yes, I have unfortunate and breaking news to you in the United States. About 10 minutes ago, Israeli tanks shelled the hospital, al-Aqsa Hospital, in Deir al-Balah, which is in the middle zone of Gaza. Four were killed, mainly patients treated in the surgical department, and 15 are injured. This is not the first, unfortunately, attack on hospitals. The Israeli army is now directly shelling hospitals and killing patients and civilians. This, of course, is in violation of all international rules, and it is completely incomprehensible for me why the Israeli army is not stopped when they attack hospitals, ambulances and civilian populations. This has to stop, and Mr. Obama has to step up and say enough is enough now.
AARON MATÉ: Dr. Gilbert, the invasion—the ground invasion started on Thursday. What kinds of injuries have you been seeing since then?
DR. MADS GILBERT: Well, I’d just like to repeat that 10 minutes ago the Israeli army shelled the al-Aqsa Hospital. This is a very dramatic step up in the situation.
We have so far had 3,200 injured in Gaza. Among these, 1,000 are children, and 600 are women. That is far more than half. Five hundred and fifteen have been killed, among them 120 children and 50 women. The types of injuries that we’re seeing now—and the hospital is again being crowded in the emergency with new attacks—are shrapnels, blast injuries, burns and what you can see from artillery shell bombing. Lots of children still. I had a brief hope that it would be a quiet morning. That has not been fulfilled. It’s been very hectic. And the ambulances keep running in. However, the worst night so far was the Shejaiya night, the night before yesterday, when the hospital received at least 400 injured and 73 dead. This was truly a massacre, and the injuries were just horrible, as your correspondent just mentioned. Children came in without heads and totally dismantled by the shelling of the residential areas.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mads Gilbert, you came in from Norway to help the people of Gaza. Secretary of State John Kerry has just called on your foreign minister to help to negotiate a ceasefire. Apparently, he’s flying, I believe, to Egypt. Can you talk about the significance of this and Norway’s role, your country’s role?
DR. MADS GILBERT: The significance, from a medical point of view, there is one overwhelming need in Gaza now, and that is to stop the Israeli bombardment of Gaza. It is absolutely devastating. It is much harder than I have seen before in 2006, 2009 and 2012, the attacks then. It is targeting obviously residential areas and now also hospitals.
Of course, a ceasefire has to be brokered immediately, but it has, of course, to be done in a way that is safeguarding the interests of the Palestinian people and not only the interests of the superpowers and the occupant. The Palestinian people are not yielding. They are standing tall. And the staff in Shifa are who are the ones carrying the weight, like the other hospitals. I’m only a very, very small part of this. They are not intending to pull the white flag. There is no way Gaza will raise the white flag. These are people who are dignified. They know their rights. And they say, "This is our land. We’re going to live here. No power, even if they try to kill us all, we will not surrender." So, the ceasefire will save thousands of lives in Gaza. We have now half a thousand killed and 3,200 injured. This has to stop. We need a ceasefire. Israel has to stop the bombing. And the siege of Gaza must be lifted immediately. We don’t have supplies anymore.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Gilbert, The Guardian newspaper is reporting that the Israeli military is using flechette shells in the offensive on Gaza, weapons described as illegal under rules of humanitarian law. The way they’re described is they explode in the air above a target, sending out a cone of thousands of tiny steel darts, small darts. Have you seen any of those wounds at Shifa?
DR. MADS GILBERT: Well, I have been suspecting the same, because many of the wounds we see are precisely small fragment wounds. And they are very hard to clean and to remove the small metal particles. If these are flechette bombs, I cannot confirm it 100 percent, but there is no doubt that a large number of injuries we’re getting now are fragmentation injuries from different sources of fragmentation. It could be an artillery shell, and it could well be flechette explosives.
AARON MATÉ: And Dr. Gilbert, the bombing of the hospital that you’ve just—this news that you’ve just broken here on the show—last week we spoke to the director at the al-Wafa Hospital. He received a phone call from the Israeli military telling him he was going to be targeted, suggesting, of course, then, as Juan González pointed out on the show, that the hospital was deliberately targeted. Any indication that now this hospital was deliberately attacked?
DR. MADS GILBERT: That’s a funny question. I mean, it’s a hospital. It’s well marked on the map. Everybody knows about it. The Israelis know every single building in Gaza. They know the mobile numbers to all the inhabitants. They know everything about Gaza. Of course they know that al-Aqsa is a hospital. There is absolutely no doubt. Of course they know that this is a hospital filled with patients. And to make this even worse, you know, the hospitals in the south of Gaza are overwhelmed by patients who are running in, because it’s impossible to distribute the patients between north and south because it’s so unsafe to travel in the ambulances. Of course they knew they were shelling a hospital. And it’s just reported now on the news that there are actually five killed in this shelling of al-Aqsa Hospital in Deir al-Balah, in the midsection of Gaza. And, of course, shelling hospitals, shelling ambulances, shelling civilians all amount to war crimes, and this is a war crime in the making.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mads Gilbert, we want to thank you for being with us, again, a Norwegian doctor providing medical assistance in Gaza, as we turn back to Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who is in Gaza City right now. And I should say that Dr. Mads Gilbert submitted a report to the U.N. on the state of the Gaza health sector in 2014, even before the Israeli assault on Gaza began. Sharif, if you can talk about—among the civilians that have died, a paramedic has died, another journalist has died.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Yes, Amy. As I said, it was very hard for ambulances to get into Shejaiya yesterday, but the paramedic drivers here are extremely brave, and many of them went into Shejaiya to try and retrieve people, to retrieve the wounded. And one of them was hit in a direct hit. The picture of the ambulance is of a charred, twisted hunk of metal. And so he was killed.
And a journalist, a Palestinian journalist, was also killed, as well, a photojournalist, I believe. And he was—you know, this came a day after the Government Press Office in Israel sent an email to foreign correspondents telling them that Hamas frequently exploits journalists as human shields and that the Israeli government will not be responsible for any damage or injury that journalists sustain while field reporting. And then the next day a journalist was killed.
Let me also say, Amy, that the number of displaced is really much higher than it was in 2008, 2009, in that Israeli operation. There’s just—there’s nowhere for people to go anymore. Before the Shejaiya attack, the UNRWA numbers was 60,000 displaced; at the end of the day, it was 80,000 displaced. The U.N. was opening up different schools for people to come. And they come with nothing. They come with maybe a blanket or a pillow, but usually nothing else. And they don’t know when they’ll go home. They don’t know if they have a home when they go back or whether it will be destroyed.
And, you know, we talk often about the dead, but the vast, vast numbers of wounded, 3,000 wounded, these are not minor injuries. We’re talking amputations. We’re talking deep shrapnel wounds. And, of course, the psychological terror that’s inflicted, especially on the children of Gaza, will have deep, lasting effects. By the U.N.'s own count, 60,000 children in Gaza are in need of some kind of psychological treatment. So, these are effects that will last for many generations, and it's not just something that will never end. And, you know, as I’m speaking to you, there’s been shelling behind me in eastern parts of Gaza City, missile strikes that are happening. I can hear drones over me right now as we speak. So, you know, this is something that the Gaza Strip is bracing for, for more bloodshed still.
AARON MATÉ: Sharif, the fighting in Shejaiya, that’s where 13 Israeli soldiers were killed. What do you understand about the battle that occurred between militants and the Israeli soldiers? It looks like they put up a considerable fight.
SHARIF ABDEL KOUDDOUS: Well, it’s very hard to independently verify anything. What does appear to have occurred is that, according to different sources, is that either a tank or some kind of armored vehicle was attacked and destroyed by the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and that when the rescue team, the Israeli rescue team, went in, four of them were killed, as well.
So, it really looks—and speaking to different analysts here, political and military analysts, local ones, saying that al-Qassam is much more prepared militarily than it was in 2008 and '09, that it learned its lessons from 2008 and ’09, that there is a Gaza under Gaza, with tunnels and a network where they operate. And they seem to have—this seems to be true, that they fired many rockets into Israel, and the Israeli military doesn't seem to be able to kill the militants—they’re killing civilians and children.
And, you know, they’ve—there’s two very big bangs just happened behind me. They’re continuing. It sounds like naval artillery.
And, you know, they continue to pop up into Israel proper through these tunnels that cross the border, which Netanyahu says is the whole point of the ground invasion, to destroy them. So, it does seem to be that they almost want the Israelis to come in so they can be able to fight them.
If you just look over to the right here in the distance back there, I believe that is the Shejaiya in the back. You can see, on the horizon, massive strikes there, maybe two or three, and the smoke is just billowing up. And this is, I believe, still, yes, Shejaiya, where we had that massacre yesterday. So these are the sounds we’re hearing. And this is just a couple of kilometers from where we’re standing right now.
AMY GOODMAN: Sharif, thank you for being with us. Sharif Abdel Kouddous, Democracy Now! correspondent, is filing reports for The Nation magazine, and we’ll link to those reports, speaking to us from Gaza City. When we come back from break, we’ll be joined by Raji Sourani, a Palestinian human rights leader, won the Robert F. Kennedy prize for human rights, as well as the Right Livelihood Award. He’ll speak to us from Gaza, as well. Stay with us.