Amid growing alarm that more Israeli airstrikes will hit hospitals in Gaza, we speak with two physicians about Gaza’s medical system and Israel’s orders to evacuate key hospitals. Dr. Fadel Naim, head of orthopedic surgery at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in Gaza, says Israel has “bombed all around the hospital.” Dr. Mads Gilbert, who has helped provide emergency trauma care in Gaza for over four decades, condemns Israel for using allegations of military activity to attack civilian hospitals without proof. “This is all part of this immense intimidation of the Palestinian people in Gaza,” says Gilbert, who is trying to enter the besieged territory from Egypt “to show concrete solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.
As Israel intensifies its ground invasion and aerial bombardment of Gaza, concern is growing Israel may soon bomb the al-Quds Hospital, the second-largest hospital in Gaza City. Israel has ordered the hospital to be evacuated, but doctors say they have no way to move critically ill patients. The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, quote, “We reiterate — it’s impossible to evacuate hospitals full of patients without endangering their lives.” This is Nebal Farsakh of the Palestinian Red Crescent.
NEBAL FARSAKH: [We do not] have the means to evacuate al-Quds Hospital. We have over 400 patients who are inside the hospital. Many of them are in the intensive care unit. Evacuating them means killing them. That’s why we refuse the evacuation order. We call on the international community to intervene immediately to stop a humanitarian catastrophic that is unfolding.
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday night, Democracy Now! reached Dr. Fadel Naim, head of orthopedic surgery at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in Gaza.
DR. FADEL NAIM: The Israelis want all hospitals in Gaza, about 24 hospitals, to evacuate all patients and all displaced people in the hospitals, because the people look for safety and search for safety in the hospitals because they think it’s a safe place. We have here in Baptist Hospital about 3,000 people. They have about 12,000 people in al-Quds Hospital, and they have also 400 patients.
And today they didn’t bomb directly to the hospital, but they bombed all around the hospital, so all the glasses, the doors were distorted, and it’s not functioning now, as country functioning, because, you know, all the infrastructure is destructed.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. Fadel Naim, who works at Al-Ahli Hospital.
We’re joined now by Dr. Mads Gilbert, Norwegian physician specializing in anesthesiology and emergency medicine. Dr. Gilbert has been working with the Palestinians since 1981, has been in Gaza there during the Israeli assaults in 2006, 2009, 2012, 2014, delivering life-saving trauma care emergency medicine, mainly in the largest hospital, in Al-Shifa, but also in al-Quds. Dr. Gilbert is currently with an emergency medical team supported by the Norwegian government in Cairo, Egypt, where they’ve waited for over two weeks to enter Gaza. Dr. Gilbert is also the author of several books on Gaza, including Eyes in Gaza and Night in Gaza.
Dr. Mads Gilbert, welcome back to Democracy Now! Let’s talk about this Israeli order that al-Quds Hospital must be evacuated immediately, and the World Health Organization saying, “You are asking our doctors and staff to choose their own lives over their patients’ lives who can’t be moved.” Can you respond to this?
DR. MADS GILBERT: Yes, I can, Amy.
And I think, first of all, it is completely absurd that we, in 2023, should have a state army that is threatening to bomb hospital, and de facto is bombing hospitals and killing children by the thousands in what is called a war. Now, these threats to the Palestinian civilian hospitals in Gaza is extremely serious, not only because it is illegal according to international law, but it’s threatening the lives of thousands of patients, of staff, and not to forget the 12,000 refugees who have taken refuge in al-Quds Hospital and the more than 50,000 who have taken refuge in the Shifa Hospital. So, these hospitals are not only clinical entities doing some treatment. These are cornerstones of the social fabric that remains in Gaza, because most of all other fabric is bombed away.
I’ve talked to my colleagues both in Shifa and in al-Quds this morning. And my colleagues in al-Quds Hospital, I know very well. They report continuous bombing very close to the hospital, and they can see fires. Also during the night, there has been heavy bombardment of the Turkish hospital, which is a little bit further south and which is the central cancer hospital of Gaza. For Shifa Hospital, there is also threats. And don’t forget that before they bombed the Al-Ahli Arab Hospital, there were threats and what we call knock-on-the-roof bombardment around the hospital. So there is an urgent fear among my colleagues — doctors, nurses, paramedics — in these two large hospitals that indeed the Israeli governmental army will execute the threats of bombing the hospitals. But they stay put. And in that capacity as health workers, to me, they are moral compasses and lighthouses of hope today in a very, very dark area of our history.
AMY GOODMAN: You have worked in Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza. The Israeli military says that that’s where the Hamas command and control is. Can you respond?
DR. MADS GILBERT: I will ask President Netanyahu to put on the table the proofs and the evidence that there is a control and command center for the Palestinian resistance in Shifa Hospital. We have heard these claims since 2009. We have twice been threatened to leave Shifa Hospital, in 2009 and 2014, because the Israelis were going to bomb it because it was a command center. Now, I have been working in Shifa for 16 years, 16 years on and off, in very hectic periods, very hectic periods. I’ve been able to walk freely around. I take lots of pictures. I video, film. I’ve been sleeping in the hospital during bombardment. I’ve been all over. I’ve never been restricted, controlled. Nobody has ever controlled my picture and documentation material. So, well, if there is a command center, show us. You have pictures and X-ray films of all Gaza, all the tunnels, everything. So, why is it that these 16 years of threats that Shifa is a command center has not been given any evidence at all that it de facto is? Now, if it was a military command center, I would not work there, because I obey to the Geneva Convention, number one.
Number two, if the Israelis claim that this is a mixed military-civilian target, because obviously it is civilian, with tens of thousands of people gathering there and 2,000 patients being treated — if it is a mixed military-civilian target, the civilian precautions take priority over the military. So, in accordance with the Geneva Convention, you can’t bomb hospitals, unless they have very clear military functions.
So, to me, this is all part of this immense intimidation of the Palestinian people in Gaza. They are threatened with leaflets from the planes and the helicopters. They are threatened by phone calls. They are threatened by, you know, “If you stay in northern Gaza now, we define you as a terrorist.” What is this? 2023, two-and-a-half million — 2.2 million people, civilian, unarmed people being killed, a child killed every 10 minutes. So far today, the number of killed Palestinian children is 3,324, and there are missing 2,062 Palestinian children in Gaza. That’s 5,300 Palestinian children killed in three weeks.
And I ask President Biden: What kind of president are you? And the vice president. Do you have children? Do you accept that this is a war? Do you accept that your supported Israeli army is killing, by the thousands, children? For heaven’s sake, let’s have a ceasefire. Let’s lift the siege of Gaza. Let’s let in supplies and international teams to work. My colleagues are overburdened. They have worked night and day for three weeks now. This has to stop. I don’t need to use the word “genocide.” It’s enough to say “mass murder of civilians.” It has to stop.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally —
DR. MADS GILBERT: There is no doctor. There is no medical effort.
AMY GOODMAN: Last question, and we just have 20 seconds. Why are you trying so hard, as Israel threatens to bomb hospitals, to get into Gaza and work in a hospital?
DR. MADS GILBERT: To show concrete solidarity with the Palestinian people. That is our strongest tool now. All over the world, we need to stand up and say we don’t accept this. We need to show solidarity. My solidarity, as a medical doctor, is to go to Gaza, stand shoulder to shoulder, do the work together with my colleagues and try to be a decent human person.
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mads Gilbert, we’re going to try to do a Part 2 interview with you and post it at democracynow.org. Dr. Mads Gilbert, Norwegian physician, has been working with the Palestinians for the last 20 years. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.