The Israeli military on Wednesday completely destroyed the al-Wafa rehabilitation and geriatric hospital in the eastern Gaza City neighborhood of Shujaiya after weeks of missile strikes on the hospital and the forced evacuation of the patients, caregivers and hospital staff last week.
The Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the Israeli military claimed the hospital buildings were “being used as a Hamas command center and rocket-launching site.” However, the hospital director, Dr. Basman Alashi, says that Israel has targeted the hospital based on false and misleading claims.
Activists with the International Solidarity Movement, who have been working closely with al-Wafa hospital staff and who attempted to prevent Israel from shelling the hospital two weeks ago, stated in a press release on Wednesday (including the photo below) that:
On the 21 July at 2:17 PM, the IDF spokesperson released an image on twitter showing an aerial picture of a building marked as “Al-Wafa” hospital. In the image there is a red circle, which they designated as the location from which an M75 rocket was launched.
The building in the picture marked “Al-Wafa” hospital is in fact not the el-Wafa hospital but the Right to Life Society.
Hospital bombed killing child in ICU
The Gaza Ministry of Health reported that 797 Palestinians have now been killed and more than 5,100 injured during sixteen consecutive days of Israeli attacks. More than one hundred Palestinians were killed on Thursday alone as Israel attacked multiple areas of the Gaza Strip, including a United Nations school in Beit Hanoun where Palestinians had sought refuge.
Al-Wafa is just one of 26 medical facilities and services, including paramedic ambulances, clinics and major hospitals, to have been targeted by Israel in the last sixteen days, notes the Ministry of Health.
Ma’an News Agency reports today that Israel targeted the Muhammed al-Dura hospital and killed two-and-a-half-year-old Ibrahim al-Sheikh Omar who was in the intensive care unit after receiving treatment from an earlier injury. “Medical sources said the boy was hit by shrapnel from the explosion, killing him on the spot,” Ma’an reports. Thirty other Palestinians were injured in the missile strike on the hospital.
“On Monday, Israeli shells left four dead and wounded sixty at the al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah. The attacks have also raised alarm around the world, as more than fifty mosques have been bombed as well as thousands of homes,” Ma’an adds.
As Rania Khalek reported on Wednesday, Israel is wantonly targeting medical facilities and using sophisticated weaponry. At least one-third of all casualties have been chidren, and Israeli forces have on average killed at least one child in Gaza per hour.
Al-Wafa hospital was completely evacuated on 17 July after Israel struck the building and told the staff that more missiles were on their way. The International Solidarity Movement states that al-Wafa hospital held “seven million dollars worth of essential medical equipment, as well as two safes that were irretrievable during the emergency evacuation.”
Listen to the interview with Dr. Basman Alashi or read the transcript below.
In Thursday’s interview with The Elecronic Intifada, Dr. Alashi said that he received phone calls on Wednesday telling him that Israel was planning to bomb the hospital completely, and saw video sent by the Israeli army (and subsequently Tweeted by @IDFSpokesman) of supposed fighters firing from the building. Alashi said that the aerial photographs used by the Israeli army to manipulate support for the action “do not represent the hospital at all.”
Transcript of interview with Dr. Alashi
Nora Barrows-Friedman: Dr. Alashi, can you talk about the most recent attacks on the hospital since you evacuated the patients on July 17?
Basman Alashi Yesterday, we received a call saying that the Israelis are bombing the hospital. I could not verify this because the area, Shujaiya, where the hospital is located, is a “forbidden zone” — no one can go in without coordination from the Red Cross. So I could not verify it until I saw a video showing the hospital blowing apart, with about two or three missiles, about one ton each. That’s what I read in the news.
They destroyed two buildings, the old hospital, which is smaller than the large one, and the large one, which is a new hospital. It was destroyed completely. They based their information on fire coming out from one of the buildings, and when I looked at the pictures, they looked to me as if they were fabricated pictures that are not true, similar to the pictures that they published a few days ago regarding the declassified map, [showing] all the hospital, [claiming] that there was firing happening very close to the hospital.
And when I looked at the picture, these pictures do not represent the hospital at all. It’s another building for another society that is not very close to our building. And since they misled people and the media on the first one, I assumed that they did the same thing on the second by just building excuses to bomb the hospital. So rationality for them does not exist. What exists is that they have a bigger gun, and they will act whether it is rational or irrational.
Talking to them, trying to convince them, trying to persuade them not to bomb the hospital or talk them out of it, makes a waste of time for us. They were determined to bomb the hospital, whether there are any activities around it, or there isn’t. These are people who are meant to disrupt the whole system in Gaza, they are meant to deprive the people from having medical rehabilitation, and yesterday, I read a report that 30 percent of the 4,000 injured in Gaza need medical rehabilitation. Since they bombed the hospital yesterday, there are none in Gaza which can take care of them, and better their life, and bring them back to live a normal life. So those people, men, women and children, they will be burdens on their families, because they will be handicapped. They will be a burden on their community, their government, and the whole world.
So the action of the Israelis has created a new generation of handicapped in Gaza that God knows how can the Gazans — despite their difficulties and displacement from their home right now, how will they take care of these members of their families?
NBF: Dr. Alashi, to be clear and to reiterate what you said, you said there are two sets of photographs that you believe are falsified by the Israeli military to justify the bombing — the series of bombings and attacks on the al-Wafa hospital over the past two weeks — can you talk a little more about that, and why you think the Israeli army would falsify these kinds of photographs?
BA: The second picture that they showed there are some people firing from a gun out from the hospital. I only saw a flash of fire. There is no way for me to verify these fires — as they said, these happened two days ago, before they started destroying the hospital [again], and I know the Israeli army acts immediately whenever they see fire coming out from a building or a place. Immediately, the drones or F-16s, within minutes, they fire at this place. Now, they chose not to fire at this place. I don’t understand why.
Informants or IDF [Israeli army] members, they could have set up, and gone inside the building — since we evacuated the building on the 17th of July, we are not responsible who gets in and gets out of that building, because we have vacated it. And the Israelis forced us to leave the buildings.
So it is not our responsibility who gets inside, and that area is a warzone area, so it could be an Israeli inside, it could be fighters inside, it could be anybody inside. They claimed that it was Palestinians inside, and I doubt that it is true because I have seen them lie before. And I would assume that they lied again. So those pictures — there’s a question mark on it, and I don’t have any confirmation that what they’re saying is true, because it’s a one-sided story.
NBF: Dr. Alashi, al-Wafa is one of 26 medical facilities, including major hospitals such as al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Hospital that have been damaged or destroyed by Israeli shelling. As a physician, as the executive director of a hospital yourself, what do these kinds of attacks mean, when Israel is indiscriminately going after medical facilities, paramedics, doctors, nurses, and the kinds of equipment, the necessary medical equipment such as what you have in al-Wafa rehab hospital, at this point?
BA: The Israeli attacks on medical hospitals and clinics and schools give us several messages — that the Israelis want the Palestinians in Gaza, especially, to live in under-developed, uneducated and under unhealthy conditions, to keep a bind on them, to keep control of them, to keep the blockade from sea, land and water. And we don’t understand any justifications for them doing this but to increase the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza, to condition them to accept their terms.
But the Palestinians here — they are determined, even if they lost their houses, their property, their crops and their animals — they say “we will live in dignity, or we die. We don’t want to live under occupation anymore. We had it for 66 years, and we don’t want it anymore.” Everybody in the streets say “enough is enough. We either live free or just die, and it’s better for us.”