Gaza is ‘dystopian nightmare’ after Israeli bombardment, says doctor
Gaza is a “dystopian nightmare”, renowned UK doctor Ghassan Abu-Sitta told a press conference in London today organized by the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians (ICJP). After 43 days of volunteering amidst the Israeli bombardment of the besieged enclave, Abu-Sitta described the horror and devastation unfolding there.
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Recounting the first days of his stay, Dr Abu-Sitta said that nearly half the wounded filling under-resourced wards were children, with residential buildings clearly the primary bombing targets. He performed multiple amputations in a single night using dwindling stocks of anaesthetic to operate on limbs destroyed by illegal weapons such as white phosphorous, as well as wounds consistent with experimental fragmentation missiles. Such weapons result in complex wounds which require higher skill levels to treat.
Colleagues paid with their lives for their dedication to their patients, said Abu-Sitta. He mentioned Dr Midhat Saidam as an example. The 47-year-old surgeon had not left Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City for more than a week, and when he finally did go home to rest he was killed along with his entire family by indiscriminate Israeli bombing.
Palestinian doctors in Gaza faced direct military intimidation from the Israelis. Abu-Sitta recounted phone conversations between the head of Al-Ahli Hospital and Israeli officials prior to the 17 October massacre. Abu-Sitta had relocated to Al-Ahli hospital for a brief period. Like Al-Shifa, Al-Ahli also functioned as refugee shelter.
Al-Ahli erupted in chaos shortly after his arrival when Israeli forces phoned the medical director with evacuation orders, threatening to bomb the hospital, which at the time was housing hundreds of displaced people. The following day, drones fired upon the hospital perimeter as frantic calls warned administrators that defiance would prompt an air strike. The hospital was bombed the following day, although Israel claims that it was either Hamas or Islamic Jihad which carried out the attack.
Israel’s relentless and indiscriminate bombing made it impossible to treat the injured. The final straw, said Abu-Sitta, was when the Israelis bombed Sabra Mosque, killing 60 and wounding hundreds. Having exhausted anaesthetic reserves and basic medical supplies after 40 days of relentless attacks, Abu-Sitta realised the futility of attempting complex surgery in such conditions.
Departing to the south of Gaza, he saw the “dystopian nightmare” made real. Bodies of dead Palestinians were strewn across the smouldering ruins leading up to congested narrow checkpoints no more than a few metres wide. Israeli soldiers were placed on either side barking orders while manning facial recognition cameras. Abu-Sitta also recounted the shock of seeing mass public strip searches at gunpoint. Around 15 handcuffed Palestinians were forced to kneel naked as Israeli soldiers carried out a strip search on the side of a narrow checkpoint on the road to the south.
Abu-Sitta is expected to give evidence to the Metropolitan Police, said ICJP founder Tayyib Ali during his opening remarks at the press conference. Ali highlighted the organisation’s investigation into Israel’s conduct over possible war crimes, alongside potential British complicity in a genocide. The ongoing investigation is still at a preliminary stage, he explained.
Video evidence suggests that Israel is in violation of international law and deliberately targeted civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and refugee shelters to precipitate the mass expulsion of the Palestinians. Alleged crimes include utilising hunger as a weapon. The cutting of fuel, water and power supplies to create mass starvation constitutes a genocidal act according to legal experts.
Ali pledged that the ICJP will seek accountability no matter who the perpetrators are. British legal standards will be applied against politicians and UK citizens who may be complicit in war crimes and accused of perpetrating genocide.