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Worse Than Hell: Dr. Mads Gilbert Decries Israeli Military Raid on Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

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The Israel military raid on Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians are sheltering, is an “unprecedented attack on civilian society” in the “darkest time in modern history,” that is being justified in the West by “a deep-rooted and frightening racism,” says Dr. Mads Gilbert, who worked at Al-Shifa. “You don’t do these things to people you consider equal.” Dr. Gilbert is a Norwegian physician who just spent weeks in Cairo trying to enter Gaza to help his colleagues and has worked extensively in Palestine since 1981. “The civilian population of Gaza [have] done nothing wrong other than being born Palestinians in Gaza,” he says. “Israeli impunity has reached a new level, and we are all sinking into that abyss of disregard for human life.”

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

AMY GOODMAN: We begin the show in Gaza, where Israel is conducting a military raid on Al-Shifa, the largest hospital in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have sought refuge or medical treatment. The Palestinian Authority has decried the raid as a violation of international law. There are reports Israeli troops have ordered all young men on the hospital grounds to surrender. Many Palestinian men are already being interrogated, some while being held naked and blindfolded. Israel has accused Hamas of placing a command center below Al-Shifa, but Hamas and hospital officials have denied the claim. Israeli tanks are now inside the hospital complex.

This is Dr. Ahmed al-Mokhallati, a plastic surgeon at Al-Shifa.

DR. AHMED AL-MOKHALLATI: And understand we can’t look through the windows or doors. We don’t know what’s happening. We have tanks moving within the hospital. We can hear continuous shooting, and right now. But again, it’s totally risky, the situation.

REPORTER: So, what are these sounds, Doctor? I’m hearing sounds.

DR. AHMED AL-MOKHALLATI: It’s continuous shooting from the tanks. We don’t know what to do. We are within the building. Israel within the building. They are in. We can’t go between the hospital buildings at all for food. So, we are with each other, with the patients, with the civilians within the hospital. And it’s totally risky, the situation.

AMY GOODMAN: Doctors in Al-Shifa are struggling to keep patients alive, including dozens of premature babies, amidst a lack of fuel and the ongoing Israeli military raid.

AL-SHIFA DOCTOR: [translated] I am standing here at the ICU at Al-Shifa medical complex. The department is suffering after the shutdown of electricity due to the lack of fuel. The Health Ministry warned about the lack of the fuel. This department today at dawn was struck directly by the Israeli occupation forces. Here also, the ICU and these children, who were on life machines and artificial respiration, were taken into the corridors of the ICU department. These people here were denied life support devices. They face the loss of their lives because there are no support machines or artificial respiration devices. Around 29 patients are facing this tragedy.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re joined now by Dr. Mads Gilbert, Norwegian physician who’s worked in Al-Shifa for years, just spent weeks in Cairo getting — trying his best to get into Gaza. He’s a professor at University Hospital of North Norway and the Arctic University of Norway who’s worked with Palestinians since 1981, was in Gaza there during the major Israeli bombardments of 2006, 2009, 2012 and 2014. Dr. Gilbert, where are you right now?

DR. MADS GILBERT: Right now I arrived this early morning in Johannesburg in South Africa. I will be on an invited speaking tour here on Gaza and Palestine, but with —

AMY GOODMAN: We just — we just have a few minutes, but I know that you’ve been speaking to people within Gaza, in Al-Shifa. Can you talk about the scene that we just described? What do you understand is happening there?

DR. MADS GILBERT: If I should choose today between hell and Al-Shifa, I would choose hell. I got a report yesterday from the minister of health that 20 out of the 23 ICU patients had died. Seventeen other patients died because of lack of supplies, oxygen and water. And three, if not five, of the 38 premature newborns have died because of this slow suffocation that the Israeli occupation army is exposing all the hospitals to by cutting electricity, oxygen and medical supplies. And it’s — you know, it’s beyond description. I’m out of words to describe this systematic, man-made slaughtering of patients in civilian hospitals.

And when I heard the crowd in the United States shout, you know, “No ceasefire,” I think that’s the only place on Earth where people are supporting Israel. And the other streets of the world are supporting a ceasefire, a human solution, a lift of the siege and a support for the people of Gaza. So this is a deeply divided world, and the lies are flying around like never before in any war.

And I think we need to keep our heads and our hearts calm now and understand that what we are seeing is an unprecedented attack on a civilian society, occupied by one of the most brutal and ruthless armies in the world, exercising a systematic attack on civilian healthcare, completely against international law and the standards that we want to apply, and being back-patted all the time by the U.S. president.

I mean, we’re in the darkest time in modern history now. So far, if you look at the U.N. numbers, the U.N. numbers that are coming out every day in their fact sheets, 40,000 Palestinians have been killed or are missing under the rubble or have been injured for four weeks. Forty thousand. Six thousand of the killed and missing are children. When did that become defense of a country? When did it become decent to drag neonates out of their incubators and kill children? You know, the only explanation for this is a deep-rooted and very frightening racism, because you don’t do these things to people you consider your equal. I’m extremely disturbed. I’m extremely upset. And I blame the European leaders and your president for this bloody bloodshed of people who are being completely defenseless.

And I talked to a colleague in Mustashfa Al-Aqsa in the south yesterday. He told me they were seeing influx of patients coming, walking from the north, having followed the Israeli command to leave the north, and they were being shot in the legs. And they were treating gunshots in the legs from people trying to escape the north. Forty percent —

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Dr. Gilbert —

DR. MADS GILBERT: — of the [inaudible].

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Dr. Gilbert, I wanted to ask you what — the Israeli government continues to insist that Hamas is using the hospitals in Gaza as command centers and as underground headquarters storing weapons and even hostages. What is your response to these claims?

DR. MADS GILBERT: Twofold. Why are you in the media conveying these false claims continuously and taking the attention away from what is the real problem — namely, the continuous bombing and killing of people in Gaza? There is absolutely no proof, so far, that I know of, neither from U.S. intelligence nor from the Israeli intelligence, and we’ve heard these accusations for 16 years. Show us the proof. Show us the evidence. And don’t forget that the Geneva Convention, the Fourth Convention, is telling the fighting parties to make both distinction and precaution. If it’s a mixed military and civilian target, the civilian precaution takes priority over the military again. And they have been bombing not only Shifa and al-Quds, but lots of hospitals, with even bothering to claim that there is any military activity in that hospital. They bombed the Turkish. They bombed Al-Rantisi Pediatric Hospital. And we’ve all seen these ridiculous videos where they say, “Oh, here are Pampers in a pediatric hospital. It’s got to be the terrorists.” So I think this is a big sham, and I’m a bit worried that you in the media so easily are conveying these unsubstantiated accusations. And regardless, they don’t have the right to bomb hospitals. That’s very clear.

And now it’s not only Al-Shifa. Now the al-Quds Hospital is being evacuated with all the patients and all the staff. And it is really a convoy of shame to the Western world and to the United States to see these hospitals, the last resorts in a dramatic assault on the civilian population in Gaza, who have done nothing wrong other than being born Palestinians in Gaza. And this convoy of misery is the result of a lenient attitude to the Israeli violations of international law through many, many years. The Israeli impunity has reached a new level, and we are all sinking into that abyss of the disregard for human life and humanity, as we are seeing this going on without anybody trying to stop the Israeli army.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mads Gilbert, we thank you for being with us, Norwegian physician who’s spent decades working in Gaza, attempted to get in to go back to Al-Shifa but wasn’t able to, now speaking to us from Johannesburg, South Africa.

Coming up, Peter Beinart, editor-at-large of Jewish Currents.

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