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Gaza Hospitals Fail Under Israeli Bombardment; Doctors Without Borders Describes Horrific Conditions

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Gaza’s two largest hospitals are under a complete siege by Israeli forces and no longer functioning. Palestinian health officials have also accused Israel of using snipers to shoot at people inside Al-Shifa Hospital, where thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge. Israel has claimed Hamas runs a command center below the hospital, though this has been denied by hospital staff and Israel has not publicly released any evidence behind the claim. Dr. Fadel Naim of Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital says surgeons are forced to operate in hospital corridors with limited anesthetic supplies. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t help many of these patients. Many of them died because we couldn’t do anything for them.” We also hear from Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, a pediatric intensive care physician with Doctors Without Borders who has worked in Gaza and the West Bank. She is a co-founder of the social media account Gaza Medic Voices. “Anyone who tries to leave the hospital is targeted,” says Haj-Hassan. “We have descended into a very dark era for humanity.”

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Transcript
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

Gaza’s two largest hospitals, Al-Shifa and al-Quds, have stopped functioning as Gaza’s health system collapses under relentless Israeli bombardment and blockades. On Saturday, Al-Shifa Hospital ran out of fuel, forcing doctors to remove dozens of premature babies from incubators. Six premies have already died. Doctors are struggling to keep more than 30 other babies alive.

Palestinian health officials have accused Israel of using snipers to shoot at people inside the hospital complex, where thousands of displaced Palestinians have sought refuge. Israel has claimed Hamas runs a command center below the hospital. Hamas and medical officials at the hospital have denied the claim.

On Sunday, Dr. Mohammed Obeid, a surgeon with Doctors Without Borders, described the dire situation inside the hospital.

DR. MOHAMMED OBEID: The situation now is very bad. And we don’t have connection. There is no internet. Sometimes we have some [cellphone reception]. We’re on the fourth floor. And also, there’s a sniper who attacked four patients from — inside the hospital. One of them has a gunshot directly in his neck, and he has a quadriplegia. And the other one, he had a gunshot in the abdomen. And some of the people which actually go outside the hospital, they want to go to the south. They bomb them also. They bombed the families from Al-Shifa Hospital today in the morning. There is no electricity, actually. There is no water. There is no food. So our team is exhausted.

We have two neonate patients die, actually, because the incubator, it’s not working because there is no electricity. Also, we have the adult patient in the ICU; he died because the ventilator is shut down because there is no electricity. We can see, actually, the smoking — the smoke around the hospital. They hit everything around the hospital, and they hit the hospital many times.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Mohammed Obeid, a surgeon with MSF, Doctors Without Borders, inside the Al-Shifa Hospital. On Sunday, Democracy Now! reached another doctor in Gaza City, Dr. Fadel Naim.

DR. FADEL NAIM: We are at Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital, the Baptist Hospital, the only functioning hospital in Gaza City. All the injured people and other people, like people with high blood tension or diabetes mellitus or diarrhea or asthenia or children with dehydration, cancer patients, patients with kidney failure who need dialysis, pregnant women and other cases, are coming to our hospital because they have no other possibility to go to other hospitals. The other hospitals are surrounded by the Israeli tankers, like the biggest hospital in Gaza, Shifa Hospital, and al-Nasr Pediatric Hospital. Some of the [inaudible] hospitals are closed because of the shortage in fuel and equipment. Since yesterday, we received more than 300 or 400 injured people and tens of other people who had other health problems. We had to do some surgical interventions in the corridors and on the courtyard because of the shortage of anesthesia drugs.

Our biggest problem is the shortage in manpower. Because we are a small hospital, we are not prepared to receive such like — like these numbers of patients at one time. Many volunteers came to help us, but we need specialized doctors in different specialties, in general surgery, in neurosurgery, chest surgery, vascular surgery and gynecology and pediatric pediatricians. Unfortunately, we couldn’t help many of these patients. Some of them died because we couldn’t do anything for them.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Fadel Naim, speaking Sunday from Al-Ahli al-Arabi Hospital in Gaza City.

To talk more about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, we’re joined by Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan. She’s a pediatric intensive care physician who works with the humanitarian aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, or Doctors Without Borders. She’s in regular contact with health professionals in Gaza and previously worked as a medical trainer in Gaza and the West Bank. She’s the co-founder of the social media account Gaza Medic Voices, which shares firsthand accounts from healthcare professionals in Gaza. On Saturday, she took part in a vigil outside British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office in London. She broke down while reading an urgent message from the director of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, Dr. Nidal Hadrous.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: [reading] We, as medical staff, want to leave, but we cannot. We might not survive until the morning.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Haj-Hassan breaks down as she tries to read a statement from the doctor in Gaza. She sits down. She covers her eyes. Her colleagues, also in blue hospital gear, put their arms on her.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: [reading] We might not survive 'til the morning. We don't want to be killed here just only because we remained committed to our patients and our medical profession. I am calling for help urgently. Please do whatever you can through your governments or the international — the ICRC, the Red Cross, to arrange a safe corridor for the medical staff. Please treat this as top urgent. This is the director of the major trauma hospital in Gaza.

I’m going to leave you with one more message: To bomb a hospital means to terrify sleeping patients, to break windows over their heads, to make the walls tip onto their bodies, to rip out ventilators and burn oxygen tanks, to ruin equipment that can help human millions of times.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Dr. Tanya Haj-Hassan, pediatric intensive care physician who works with the humanitarian aid group Doctors Without Borders, reading an urgent message from the director of Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, Dr. Nidal Hadrous.

Dr. Haj-Hassan, thank you so much for joining us. You must be, to say the least, beyond exhausted. You were reading that statement in London. I last saw you in Jordan, and now you’re in Toronto, Canada. Can you talk about the latest? That was Saturday. This is now two days later.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: Yeah. Just to be clear, you know, this was a vigil with multiple healthcare providers present who have been working in the Gaza Strip for over a decade. And we’re all in tears. I mean, every day we feel like we’ve reached the worst. And I’m going to quote one of my colleagues in Gaza, a young female surgeon, who said, “Every day we think that we’ve reached the worst thing that could ever happen, and it’s impossible that the world will be silent to it, and it will definitely get better, and we’ve finally reached the end. And then the next day proves that there’s something even worse.” And I share that sentiment. We have descended into a very dark era for humanity.

Let me just paint a picture for you of the conditions, as far as I know them, right now at Al-Shifa Hospital. I’ve receiving updates up until about an hour and a half ago. It’s very difficult to receive updates. As you know, communication has been cut off, so they’re intermittent. There’s certain individuals who have intermittent connection.

Al-Shifa Hospital is the largest trauma hospital in Gaza. It is under complete siege. It has been come under direct attack by Israeli forces for over a week now. The medical staff, including Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF, staff, are physically in the hospital at the moment. There are patients there in critical condition, hundreds of patients. And there are thousands of internally displaced individuals who are still inside that hospital, completely under siege, surrounded by Israeli tanks. They have no access to food. They’re surviving on minimal dates and biscuits that are left in the hospital. They have no access to water. They describe being very thirsty. And, as you know, they have no access to electricity, after the fuel supply was cut off, the electricity supply was cut off, and, more recently, the solar panels were bombed. They describe over a hundred bodies lying on the ground decomposing, dead bodies that they cannot bury. This is after having to dig mass graves in the garden of the hospital. The morgues cannot be cooled to preserve the bodies. As you know, there’s no electricity. So they’re decomposing.

The intensive care unit was targeted twice in the last 24 hours. There are 28 patients there. Two of them have passed away over the course of the evening. These are the adult patients. They have no access to oxygen. Dialysis patients, who require electricity to run the dialysis machines because they have kidney failure, do not have access to those dialysis machines. I can describe to you in detail what death will look like for these patients. Toxins will develop in their bloodstream. They will become overloaded with fluid, because they cannot pee it out. They cannot pee the toxins out, either. They will feel very unwell. They will probably get very confused. They’ll have difficulty breathing. And eventually they’ll die. This is a slow, horrible, painful death — preventable painful death, like all the deaths in Gaza.

Anyone who moves inside the hospital is getting directly killed. Two nurses were killed by snipers in the last 24 hours. Anyone who tries to leave the hospital is targeted. You mentioned the 38 premature newborns — three of whom who’ve died — are currently outside of their incubators, at risk of hypothermia, without access to oxygen. And I’m not sure how they’re going to provide them with all the things they need, including food.

This is an entire hospital that’s completely cut off, and we’ve had very little to no news from the other hospitals in the north of Gaza. Last we heard, they’re completely surrounded, like Al-Shifa Hospital. And, you know, we’re in a situation where there has been a systematic attempt to destroy civilian Palestinian livelihood and existence in all of Gaza, not just the north. Thirty percent of the killed have been in the south of Gaza, which is supposed to be the safe zone. Humanitarian corridors, or so-called humanitarian corridors, are called the corridor of death by Gazans, because they get directly targeted as they’re trying to flee on these corridors.

You know, Doctors Without Borders — and I mentioned we’re really struggling to contact a lot of the staff. One of my colleagues who I know at Al-Shifa said, “We are sure we are alone now. No one hears us. We are alone.” MSF was established — one of the main principles of MSF’s establishment by journalists and doctors decades ago was to provide testimony — this concept of témoignage, which means bearing witness — to provide testimony, to bear witness on these sorts of atrocities, that we don’t — that are not exposed, and to relieve the suffering of those who experience them. And we’re in a situation where we can’t do either of those things. One of our MSF staff who is staying in Gaza City, but not physically in the hospital at the moment, said there are dead people on the streets. I’m going to read his quote: “There are dead people on the streets. We see people being shot at. We can see injured people. We can hear them crying for help. But we cannot do anything. It is too dangerous to go outside.” Ambulances cannot reach the wounded.

You mentioned Dr. Hammam Alloh earlier, who was on your program a couple days ago describing how he had refused to leave the hospital and desert his patients. I knew Dr. Hammam. He was a beacon of light. He’s a gift to the world of medicine and his patients. He was a brilliant nephrologist, was one of the most highly trained doctors in Gaza. He was transforming the care of patients with chronic renal disease, the same patients that I told you are now subject to a slow and horrifying death. He spent a decade learning how to serve his people. He also has a very young family. He was killed in his wife’s home along with his father —

AMY GOODMAN: His father, his father-in-law and his brother-in-law.

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: — [inaudible] wife, his young children, and the rest are under the rubble at the moment. And they’ve been calling out to the Red Cross to try and help evacuate, and the Red Cross cannot reach them, for all the reasons that I mentioned. You know, I can’t believe that I’m having to say this, but healthcare providers, healthcare facilities, civilians have to be protected. You know, he mentioned in his interview to you that —

AMY GOODMAN: We’re having a little trouble with Dr. Haj-Hassan’s Skype. We’re going to play that interview. Dr. Haj-Hassan, can you hear me? Well —

DR. TANYA HAJ-HASSAN: I can.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re breaking up a bit.

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“Beacon of Light”: Fellow Doctors Recall Dr. Hammam Alloh, Gaza Doctor Killed by Israeli Airstrike

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