As the death toll in Gaza nears 3,800 from two weeks of Israeli aerial bombardment, we go to the occupied West Bank to speak with Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. “With the passage of each minute, more Palestinians are killed,” says Barghouti, general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. Barghouti has been a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006 and is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council. He discusses Biden’s visit to Israel, the “clearly Israeli” strike on Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, Israel’s plans to annex Gaza, and the collapsed civilian society there, where residents have no access to clean water, no hospital beds for critical medical care and no safe haven. “The game is clear: They want to ethnically cleanse, completely, the Gaza Strip.”
NERMEEN SHAIKH: The death toll in Gaza is nearing 3,800 as Israel continues its aerial bombardment of the besieged territory for the 13th day. Dozens of Palestinians were killed overnight as Israel bombed southern Gaza in areas that were supposed to be safe zones after Israel ordered residents of northern Gaza to vacate their homes. This is Raafat al-Nakhal speaking in Khan Younis after an Israeli airstrike.
RAAFAT AL-NAKHAL: [translated] We came from Gaza City. They told us to come to the south, so we came to the south. We found that the strikes intensified in the south. We stayed in a house. In front of us, there were strikes, and behind us, strikes. There’s no safety. There’s nowhere safe in Gaza. You have to be ready to die and to just stay in your house. …
There’s absolutely no difference between Gaza City, Rafah, Khan Younis, between the south, the north, the east or the west. They brought us to the south, and it’s been strikes every day. Every day there are martyrs in massive numbers. …
I’m over 70 years old. I’ve lived through several wars. It’s never been like this. It’s never been this brutal — no religion and no conscience. Thank God. We only have hope in God, not in any Arab or Muslim country or anywhere in the world, except for God.
AMY GOODMAN: Funerals were held earlier today in Khan Younis after an Israeli airstrike leveled a three-story building, killing 12 members of the same family. Relatives said the dead include seven children.
GRANDFATHER: [translated] What is this that has happened to them? Babies sleeping in their houses, five children and four women sleeping in their houses, no men. They were sleeping inside. The strike hit a three-level building on six babies and four women. What shall we say? Thank God. The children were all 5 or 6 years old. There was no warning, because it’s an Israeli despicable terrorist country and not an Islamic country, a terrorist American country.
UNCLE: [translated] These are seven babies. Four are buried here, and three are buried in another site. The total is 10.
GRANDFATHER: [translated] The children died, their mothers and their grandmother.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Meanwhile, in the northern Gaza Strip, an Israeli airstrike trapped children under rubble. Dramatic footage shows Palestinians trying to rescue the children.
AMY GOODMAN: This all comes as Israel has amassed tanks on the border of Gaza ahead of what appears to be an imminent ground invasion. Protests have been growing across the Middle East after hundreds of Palestinians died in an explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital. Palestinians say the blast was caused by an Israeli missile. Israel has denied responsibility despite attacking the same hospital just days earlier. According to the World Health Organization, 115 health facilities have been attacked so far in Gaza.
On the diplomatic front, the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a humanitarian pause in Gaza. President Biden, who’s returned from Israel, is scheduled to give a primetime address tonight seeking $100 billion from Congress to help arm Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. Meanwhile, Israel now says they believe 203 hostages are being held in Gaza after being seized in the Hamas attack on October 7th that killed over 1,400 people in Israel.
We go now to Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, where we’re joined by Dr. Mustafa Barghouti. He’s a Palestinian physician, an activist and politician, who serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. He’s been a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council since 2006, is also a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization Central Council.
Dr. Barghouti, welcome back to Democracy Now! If you can respond to —
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: — all the developments? Most recently, of course, President Biden has just left. Your assessment of his visit and the Arab summit that was canceled by Mahmoud Abbas, who’s based where you are, in Ramallah, the head of the Palestinian Authority, the Jordanian king and the Egyptian president, after the attack on the hospital, and your assessment of what Israel is saying about that attack?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: You know, Amy, I don’t know where to start. The atrocities are beyond description. We are subjected now, as Palestinians, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, to horrifying war crimes, ethnic cleansing, acts of collective punishment against the population of Gaza, where civilians are dying because they don’t have water, they don’t have electricity, they don’t have food, they don’t have medicines, and an act of genocide. Every five minutes, a Palestinian is killed in Gaza. Every 15 minutes, a Palestinian child is killed in Gaza. And it goes on. My last number is 3,785. I think it’s already wrong, because with the passage of each minute, more Palestinians are killed.
What did President Biden do? Instead of coming here and telling the Israelis — and he knows very well that the United States is the only country in the world that has leverage over Israel. Instead of telling them, “Stop this atrocity. Have ceasefire, so that you can at least save the prisoners that are in Gaza, the Israeli prisoners,” he came here to be totally complicit with Israeli war crimes and to push the United States into becoming a participant in these war crimes by sending soldiers to participate in the Israeli invasion and in the crimes that are committed against the Palestinian people.
He bought every lie that Netanyahu told him, and he kept repeating them. And I don’t understand how the American intelligence structure don’t tell their president that these are lies. I am sure they know that. The first lie about decapitating children, it turned out to be a big lie. The other lie about raping women, it turned out to be a lie, and that’s what Los Angeles Times apologized about. Then this huge lie about Palestinians killing themselves in their hospital, this huge lie that Israel distributed and the Israeli military did, as they usually do, by telling series of lies and changing them one time after the other.
Before I come back to President Biden, let me explain. Israel committed a terrible airstrike on the Baptist Hospital, run by the Anglican Church, killing no less than 300 — killing no less than 473 Palestinian people, mainly children and women, and injuring more than 300 others. Why? For what? It was all about the Israeli ultimatum that was already, according to WHO, sent to no less than 27 hospitals, including the largest hospital in Gaza, Shifa Hospital, to evict and evacuate so that Israel can conduct its ethnic cleansing of big parts of Gaza at the moment, with a plan of ethnically cleansing all of Gaza Strip. The strike was clearly Israeli. The type of explosion is something that no Palestinian militant group has, a huge blast that took the lives of almost 500 people instantly, in less than a minute. That’s a power that no Palestinian group has. So it was a big lie.
But Israel lied four times in justifying this attack. The first Israeli reaction was that they did the airstrike on the hospital — they admitted it in the first round, and they said they did it because Hamas militants were hiding there. Then they changed the story, and they said that Hamas is taking Palestinians as human shield. Then the third story, they changed the story and said it was Hamas rocket. And then the fourth lie, which is now dominant, is that it was a jihadi rocket.
How could the United States repeat these lies and accept them without verifying them? Israel did that before with the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, when they changed their story four times. Each time, in the beginning, they said she was killed by a Palestinian, and gradually they admitted that it was their crime. Believe me, these lies should not be continued.
And the United States should immediately support an immediate ceasefire. The meeting that should have been taking place with the Jordanian king and with the Egyptian president and with Palestinian president did not take place because all these three people realized that Mr. Biden does not want to support ceasefire immediately. And they realized that he’s practically supporting the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt, something that Egypt refused and something that Jordan refused and something that all the Arab countries refused. That is the essence of what’s happening now.
And so, Israel now is changing the plan a little bit by pushing all the people from the northern part of Gaza and the middle of Gaza into the southern part. It’s already a very small area of less than 140 square miles, becoming now less than 60 square miles, with 2.3 million people. They say they pushed them down for safety, but they continue to bombard them in the south. The game is clear: They want to ethnically cleanse, completely, Gaza Strip. And they initiated acts of ethnic cleansing already in the West Bank, where 20 Palestinian communities have already been evicted by Israeli terror settlers, where more than 75 Palestinians already killed also in the West Bank. At this very moment, the Israeli army is attacking Tulkarem camp and Nur Shams camp in Tulkarem area, using drones and using also rockets against civilian population in a refugee camp. This is the situation that is getting worse and worse every day.
And the real plan, as I can see it, according to what an Israeli minister said, “We’re going to shrink Gaza’s size.” What does that mean? Annexing the northern part and the middle of Gaza? What will happen to all these hospitals? Let me read to you what World Health Organization says. The World Health Organization says that 130 attacks — 136 attacks were committed against health facilities in Gaza, during which time 491 Palestinians were killed, 16 health workers were killed, 370 people were injured, 23 Palestinian health ambulances were destroyed, and 26 facilities were completely destroyed or partially destroyed. Seventy-seven similar attacks also took place in the West Bank.
So nobody can convince us that it was Palestinians who killed Palestinians in that hospital. And nobody should give any justification for the behavior of President Biden. The only conclusion that one can come to is that he cares only about his reelection. He doesn’t care even about the lives of Israeli prisoners, neither him nor Netanyahu; otherwise, why wouldn’t they accept ceasefire? Why Netanyahu continues his airstrikes, although these airstrikes already killed 22 Israeli prisoners? They continue because they don’t care about Palestinian lives or Israeli lives.
And Mr. Biden should listen not to the lies of Netanyahu, but to the noble voice of the Jewish people, the American Jewish people who came to the American Congress to demonstrate and demand one thing: immediate ceasefire. I’m telling you, we’re calling on the whole world to immediately stand up, and instead of supporting the genocide and the collective punishment and the hysterical Israeli ethnic cleansing, to support immediate ceasefire, so we can stop the killings that are taking place, a ceasefire that could guarantee safe passage to the prisoners, but also that could guarantee humanitarian aid to Palestinians who are now dying out because of thirst, because of starvation, and, most importantly, because of lack of medicines and because of a possibility of an epidemic that could immediately start in Gaza because of the suspension of vaccinations for children and because of the destruction of sanitary infrastructure. We could see an epidemic of cholera very soon in Gaza. Is that what Mr. Biden wants? Is that what Mr. Netanyahu wants? This is atrocity that should stop. And anybody that don’t call — that doesn’t call, sorry, for a ceasefire immediately will be considered not only complicit with these war crimes, but a participant in them.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Dr. Barghouti, could you respond to the decision that Biden announced of Egypt opening the Rafah border for 20 humanitarian trucks to enter into Gaza, you know, and what you think the significance of that is, if there is any, and the specific concerns you’ve raised as a doctor, the tens of thousands of pregnant women in Gaza today, what the fate of patients there are, who are in urgent need of medical care, and none is available?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, one of the most striking scenes was the images of children who died in the uterus of their mothers, because they were pregnant and they were hit. But there are 5,500 Palestinian women who are giving birth this month, and we already received terrible, terrible information about them giving birth in the streets, because there is no place to go to. The south of Gaza does not have any space anymore, besides the fact that there is no safe space for anybody. Israel has already destroyed more than 80,000 homes and houses of people, and people have no place to go to. And there is very high risk now of an increased infant mortality, perinatal mortality and maternal mortality because of the situation that Palestinians find themselves in — no sanitary facilities, no drinking water, no running water, no proper sewage system. It’s a total disaster and total, total humanitarian crisis.
You asked me about something about President Biden. Can you repeat the question, please?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes, about the decision to let convoys, humanitarian convoys, 20, in from Egypt into Gaza.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Imagine 2.3 million people already deprived of fuel, water, electricity, medications and food for 12 days. And you send 20 trucks for them? What does that change? It’s less than a drop in the ocean. That’s much less than what people need. It becomes only a cover of the crime that is happening. I’m not against, of course, bringing these trucks, whatever they can help, but that’s not what we need. We need an open corridor so that food, water, electricity, as well as medications can get to people. We have medical teams in Gaza. We have Palestinian medical relief teams working along the work of the Red Crescent, as well as the Ministry of Health. And they are calling us every day, telling us, “We don’t have any more medications. We don’t have even dressing to help the injured people. We don’t have proper sanitary facilities. How can we deal with patients in these conditions?” You know, patients were treated and surgical operations took place the other day on the stairs of the hospitals, because there were no beds left. And the massacre that happened in the Baptist Hospital was so shocking and practically brought the whole health structure down. And now, already, three hospitals stopped working, because they have no electricity, because they don’t have sufficient medications. It’s a humanitarian disaster that is building up.
And the only explanation is that Netanyahu wants to solve what he thinks is the demographic problem of Israel, being that the number of Palestinians today in West Bank and Gaza Strip and in Israel itself is equal to the number of Israeli Jewish people. He wants to eliminate that, first by ethnically cleansing the 2.3 million people in Gaza, pushing them out of Gaza and then annexing Gaza Strip, and then initiate a process of ethnic cleansing for Palestinians in the West Bank, first in Area C and then in the rest of the West Bank. That’s why the king of Jordan is so shocked about these plans, because he knows that he’s coming next. After they finish with Gaza, they will move to the West Bank. This is something that nobody should accept.
I never thought — I never thought, I admit — and I was wrong — I never thought that Israel could dare to conduct ethnic cleansing in the 21st century. And unfortunately, I was wrong. That’s exactly what they are doing today. And I ask the question. They say that Israel has the right to respond. OK, they responded. They responded. They already killed almost 4,000 people. How many thousands of children, how many thousands of patients, how many thousands of women and men should die before Israel decides it’s enough? Or should all the millions of Palestinians disappear from Palestine and disappear from this world so that these fascists — and I call them fascists and Nazis — that are governing Israel would be satisfied?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Dr. Barghouti, I just want to quote to you — I think this is the senior minister to whom you were referring, comments he made — Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen, saying in an interview with Israel’s Army Radio on Wednesday — he said, quote, that “At the end of this war, not only will Hamas no longer be in Gaza, but the territory of Gaza will also decrease.” So, if you could talk more about that, elaborate on your point about what precisely they intend to do with Gaza, and then talk about what’s happening in the West Bank? You said it’s also the site of war crimes, of ethnic cleansing. But also the protests that are directed against the Palestinian Authority there — we had earlier in headlines that the protests across the West Bank have also taken aim at the ruling Palestinian Authority, which has launched a violent crackdown on demonstrations. A 12-year-old Palestinian girl named Razan Nasrallah was shot and killed by PA security forces Tuesday during protests in Jenin. So, if you could talk about that, the situation in the West Bank?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yeah. I’m sorry, but you asked about something else before the West Bank?
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Yes. I just cited to you the person whom I thought you were mentioning earlier, the Israeli foreign minister —
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Oh, Cohen, yes, yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: — talking about — yes, please.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes, yes, Eli Cohen. The foreign minister of Israel means that Israel is turning now, since Egypt is not allowing the ethnic cleansing of people in Gaza to Egypt up ’til now, is turning to plan B. And plan B is to remove everybody in the northern part of Gaza and in Gaza City itself — that is about 1.1 million to 1.2 million people — move them down to the southern parts of Gaza and then annex that area, cutting down the size of Gaza from 140 square miles to maybe now less than 50 square miles or maybe 60 square miles. This is the only explanation of what he said, shrinking the size of Gaza, bringing it down. And they think — the Israeli government thinks — that if they cluster all these 2.3 million people in such a small area, then the pressure will be so huge that Egypt will be obliged to open the borders and let them out of Gaza. And in that case, Israel would have achieved its original plan of total ethnic cleansing, pushing Palestinians out of Palestine into the Sinai. Mind you, 70% of these people have already been ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948. They were displaced from parts of the 520 communities that Israeli troops erased to earth back in 1948, committing 50 massacres and pushing Palestinians out of Palestine. They want to repeat the same ethnic cleansing again.
But let me tell you, this is not the last plan of Israel. Netanyahu made it very clear. Maybe I’m repeating that. He carried the map of Israel in the United Nations in front of the whole world weeks ago, in which that map, the map of Israel, included the annexation of all of the West Bank and the annexation of all the occupied Gaza Strip. This is their plan: annexation, ethnic cleansing and committing genocide against the Palestinian population.
But in response to your question about West Bank, let me tell you the situation here is very dangerous, is very grave. First of all, Israel imposed practically a process of fragmenting the West Bank into 224 small islands or ghettos, if you want, separated from each other by no less than 640 military Israeli checkpoints, many of which are closed completely — for instance, Jericho now is totally closed — and then the wall, of course, itself and the so-called bypass roads, which are segregated roads exclusive for Israelis. Many, many Palestinians cannot move now from one area to another. Our health work is becoming very, very complicated in the West Bank because we cannot move medications, we cannot move medical teams.
And the worst situation is in the so-called Area C, which represents no less than 60% of the West Bank, where settlers are continuously attacking Palestinians. The other day, Israeli terror settlers attacked the village of Qusra, in Nablus area, killed three Palestinian civilians. The army, the Israeli army, came and killed a fourth one. The next day, when the people were having the funeral of these four Palestinians killed, the settlers came back again and killed two more people, a father and a son — six people in one village in less than 24 hours. The terror of settlers is everywhere.
But in addition to that, the Israeli army is conducting a wide-range campaign of arresting Palestinians. According to my information, no less than 750 Palestinians have been arrested during the last week. And the number is growing, which means that the number of prisoners in Israeli jails is more than 6,300 now, many of whom are held under the so-called administrative detention, which means they don’t know why they are in jail, they don’t have any legal due process. Their lawyers cannot even defend them, because they don’t know what they are charged for, including 260 children who are in Israeli jails at the moment.
Add to that the fact that already more than 75 Palestinians have been killed. And the Israeli army, now thinking that everybody is busy with what’s happening in Gaza, they are now conducting military operations against Palestinian civil areas, including Tulkarem refugee camp and, before that, Jenin refugee camp. And this can go on. So it’s a very dangerous situation and a very risky situation for all Palestinians.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti, we only have a minute, but what about, and why then, the Palestinian Authority violent crackdown on demonstrations, with the 12-year-old Palestinian girl, Razan Nasrallah, shot and killed in Jenin?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: That was also a crime, committed by Palestinian security forces, and it should not have happened. It is unacceptable to encounter demonstrators with gunfire. That is unacceptable. We’re not calling, of course, for chaos or internal division here among Palestinians. We have enough of what we have in front of us with fighting Israelis. But the reality is that the behavior of the security apparatus is unacceptable, including suppression of freedom of expression. People were mad. They were angry at what was happening in Gaza, about the killing of people inside that hospital. And maybe they made some — I mean, they went out of control. But responding to that by shooting Palestinians, that’s the last thing that we can accept or we should accept.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa —
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: And for this —
AMY GOODMAN: — Barghouti, I want to —
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Sorry. I just wanted to say that they have to also abide by international law and stop this wrongdoing.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Barghouti is a Palestinian physician, activist, politician, serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.
Coming up, we’ll hear the voices of the historic Jewish-led protest in Washington, D.C. Thousands came out, hundreds were arrested, calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Back in 20 seconds.