Gaza’s Health Crisis and Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity

Israeli air strikes for the past 6 days have killed over 100 Palestinians in Gaza, many of them women and children; one strike deliberately targeted a media building that Israeli government knew to house journalists. Medics announced Monday that they are running out of key medicines (Gaza is under Israeli blockade). Military strikes are also interfering in the delivery of medical and other aid by international organizations in the Strip.

This Arabic-language report says that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jordanian field hospital late on Monday. I have not been able to find confirmation for this report, but if it is true, and deliberate, it would be a war crime.

A WHO spokesman reported Monday that injured individuals showing up at Gaza hospitals had “dramatically increased in the last 24 hours”. Some 700 have come to hospital, 252 of them children. Nurses at Shifa Hospital, who work 12-hour shifts, say that the injuries they are seeing are unprecedented. One said, “It’s very hard now, with many injured people coming every hour. Women and children outnumbered men, especially with the new wave [of attacks] targeting houses and civilian buildings.”


“Mourners gather around the bodies of the al-Dalu family during their funeral in Gaza City, 19 November.
(Majdi Fathi / APA images), courtesy Electronic Intifada”

Since small homemade rockets coming out of Gaza in 2012 had killed no Israelis before the Israeli Air Force started bombing the Gaza Strip last week, there is no doubt that Israel is engaged in a disproportionate use of force and a reckless disregard for the well-being of civilian non-combatants in its own occupied territory. Israeli army spokesmen claim they are precisely targeting only Hamas paramilitary personnel and blame Hamas for hiding among non-combatants. However, it is the Occupying power’s responsibility to do due diligence in ensuring the safety of the occupied population, and if Israeli pilots don’t have a clear shot at an enemy combatant, they simply should not take it.

These hostilities are deepening a longstanding crisis in Gaza health care that has resulted from deliberate Israeli policies.

The Reuters Foundation’s Trust.org reported that 39 aid organizations are warning of humanitarian disaster in Gaza if there is no ceasefire soon. Nishant Pandey, director of Oxfam Country is quoted as saying:

“We urgently need to enforce a cease fire. The present conflict threatens to perpetuate and worsen the humanitarian impact on Palestinian civilians in Gaza of over five years of Israeli blockade and the 2008-2009 Israeli military operation ‘Cast Lead’.”

In a statement, the World Health Organization worried about lack of medicine:

“Many of the drugs at zero stock are lifesaving. Gaza hospitals are now having to deal with the growing number of casualties with severely depleted medical supplies.”

Physicians in Occupied Gaza are attempting to treat head injuries, serious burns, and injuries from falling buildings and debris caused by Israeli pilots.

Aljazeera English reports on the difficulties faced by paramedics in Gaza during the Israeli bombardments:

A spokesman for the Israeli army tweeted on 19 November, “We continue to transfer goods & gas to #Gaza”, saying that on 18 November some 16 trucks carrying medical supplies entered Gaza, and 26 Palestinian patients were taken to Israel for treatment.

Although Israel is now letting in some supplies, they were inadequate to the need even before these attacks. Medhat Abbas, head of Shifa Hospital, reported that his institution lacks 40% of the needed drugs: “The shortage, of course, affects the quality of our work. However, our staff are working to the maximum to fulfill needs in this catastrophic situation.”

Morocco is setting up a field hospitals in Gaza to treat the wounded. Jordan has had one there for 3 years, and all the personnel are Jordanian.

Some 500 Egyptian activists, from the same youth groups that overthrew Hosni Mubarak in February, 2011, brought food and medical aid to Gaza on Saturday. Egypt is keeping its Rafah checkpoint with Gaza open for the transport of wounded to El Arish Hospital.


Wounded Palestinian at El Arish

The Gaza Strip, home to some 1.7 million Palestinians (about half of them children and minors), has been the victim for a long time of Israeli colonial oppression, including policies that deliberately harm the health and well-being of its residents. Stunting in children, along with widespread anemia in pregnant women and children, are one result of the economic blockade imposed on Israeli-occupied Gaza by the far right wing Likud government of Israel. Israeli strangulation of the Gaza economy has led not only to poverty and food insecurity but also to threats to the availability of potable water and access to medicine and hospital care.

A recent World Health Organization Report worries that in just 8 years, in 2020, if current Israeli policies continue, Gaza will be virtually uninhabitable. Israel as the occupying power since 1967 is directly responsible in international law for the well-being of its occupied populations, and is in severe violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of the occupied. Moreover, since Israeli policies of Apartheid, discrimination, exile, restriction of movement and infliction of harm on Palestinians in Gaza are long-standing, deliberate and systematic, Israeli leaders are guilty in this regard of crimes against humanity.

The WHO report:

“Ms. [Jean] Gough [of UNICEF] said that demand for drinking water was projected to increase by 60 per cent while damage to the aquifer, the major water source, would become irreversible without remedial action now. Mr.[Robert] Turner [of UNRWA] added that more than 440 additional schools, 800 hospital beds and more than 1,000 doctors would be needed by 2020.”

Israeli airstrikes are exacerbating what had already been a parlous health care situation for Palestinians in Gaza.

29 Responses

  1. I’m wondering how long the world is going to stand by and watch this. If Obama and his European allies do not feel that it’s of sufficient importance for the Israelis and the Palestinians to be FORCED to stop it, then, obviously, there’s insufficient Western interest in peace, and, if that is so, I don’t understand why the West couldn’t withdraw ENTIRELY from this conflict and leave these two hate-filled and vicious peoples to stew in their ancient grudges and resentments.
    Also, I’m sick of hearing that the Great Powers could not FORCE an end to it. Here’s one scenario that I heard Henry Kissinger advance over twenty-five years ago and then hastily withdraw: the United States offers Israel a “mutual security pact,” in return for withdrawal to pre-1967 borders. Then America and her allies BUILD, from the ground up, a viable Palestinian state, with proper infrastructure and strong governmental entities that suit the Arabs’ religion and culture. In return for Israel’s acquiescence in this and for a much closer military alliance, the Palestinians are given to understand that, if they were to use their new state as a “stalking horse”–a sort of “Trojan horse,” to destroy or destabilize the society of America’s Jewish allies–they will be wiped off the face of the earth by combined American and Israeli military strikes. After Netanyahu and his fascist and racist ilk had rejected such an offer, then the United States and the European powers could turn to their indigenous Jewry and say, “Look, we tried; we offered them everything that a loyal ally could, and they refused it, obviously not trusting us to keep our pledges to them.” And then we could wash our hands of the Israelis and the Palestinians. I’m sure that this is going to be, increasingly, what the non-Christian Fundamentalist and the non-Jewish populations of America are going to want; they must be tired of trillion-dollar wars that do not serve America’s national interests. It’s about time that America remembered the U.S.S. Liberty and divorced her hugely ungrateful ally, as well as her ally’s implacable and barbaric enemy.

    • “Then America and her allies BUILD, from the ground up, a viable Palestinian state, with proper infrastructure and strong governmental entities that suit the Arabs’ religion and culture.”

      Have you learned nothing over the past 67 years, since the end of World War II? The United States and its allies cannot “build, from the ground up” any viable state, Palestinian or otherwise. Time and again, nation-building has failed because we, and others, think we can build something that the indigenous people cannot buy into or sustain themselves. Nation-building is a fool’s errand. Nations are built only when a certain critical mass is reached within the society itself under consideration: a middle-class, a certain standard of living, a mature approach to politics and economic development. With this critical mass, nations can be built by the people themselves. Without it, nothing the US or any other nation does can do it for them.

      • I only meant give them whatever they asked for, so that they might build it for themselves. I thought that would be implicit, when I wrote “with proper infrastructure and strong governmental entities that suit the Arabs’ religion and culture.” Certainly, we’ve contributed enough to the DESTRUCTION of their society, to warrant a little recompense to them:

        link to youtu.be

  2. I called my congressman and left a message: “When is the US Congress going to stop acting as if it were a faction of the Likud?”

    Thank you for keeping us informed.

  3. The problem with a USA government (and Congress) that (perhaps responding solely to AIPAC pressures) is ABSOLUTELY HEARTLESS about Palestinians — is that heartlessness prevents our noble governing class from attending to other important business which requires “heart” — such as reversing GLOBAL WARMING.

    Kinda hard for these noble Solons to take their blinders off, isn’t it?

  4. Some sliver of hope — there are noises that a settlement might include easing the blockade. I expect that if Bibi wants to keep the peace with Egypt, that will be the price.

  5. Words are important, and to refer to Israel’s use of merely “disproportionate force,” doesn’t square with the circumstances any better than it did in 2009.

    At that time as I recall, 14 Israeli soldiers were killed, 4 by friendly fire. Roughly 1400 Palestinians died, half of them women and children. Is “disproportionate” really the right word? This time things are only nominally different.

    The threat of the Palestinian rockets is very real when you consider their increasing sophistication. Still, if you assume them as the standard of provocation, they have been little more than dangerous nuisances. I recall one fell on a road, causing a motorist to wreck his car. With all those sirens going off, they have undoubtedly provoked a number of cardiac incidents.

    Putting things in perspective, I heard some “responsible” Israeli being interviewed about how their country has suffered, from losing sleep due to the sirens, the cost of mobilizing troops, etc. The Palestinians who have been killed and maimed simply have not counted.

    The first point in the Israeli attitude this all belies, the second is how all of the above has been massaged by Western media to avoid the stark and rather ugly reality that is evident if they had the courage to report it.

  6. As I give thanks this week, my family and I will not forget the Palestinians who will be near starvation as they mourn the death and injury of their loved ones.

    My stomach turns as I see our lapdog, nail biting press defend the brutality of the IDF by repeating the Likud Party’s ridiculous claim of Israelis having the moral high ground.

  7. If the president and Congress elected by the majority of American people support Israeli actions, does that not also make us complicit in these crimes against humanity? Saying that Israel has a right to defend itself but staying silent on the Palestinians’ right to resist oppression makes it clear the United States is incapable of being an honest broker. Concern for Israeli children is appropriate but indifference towards Palestinian children is contemptible.

  8. The 462-page Goldstone Commission Report amply documented credible proof of both war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Israel Defense Forces in Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009; that report was balanced as it faulted Hamas with war crimes for targeting Israeli civilian population centers with missile attacks.

    Amnesty International and other respected human rights organizations also investigated and documented evidence of war crimes perpetrated upon civilians in Gaza.

    Despite this, due to legal loopholes and gaps in jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court, the persons allegedly responsible for these acts were allowed to evade justice. This lack of accountability has given rise to brazen arrogance by the IDF that virtually nothing it does in derogation of international law will have any significant consequences.

    One has to believe that the health crisis, food crisis, and blockade are simply extensions of a continuous covert policy of Israel to make Gaza uninhabitable and force Gazans to leave.

    Regarding the allegation of “disproportionate force”. PM Ehud Olmert actually conceded in a “victory speech” broadcast in Israel following the conclusion of Cast Lead that from then on the Gazans could expect disproportionate force in response to missile attacks by Gazan militants. So Olmert freely conceded the IDF was implementing a policy of the Prime Minister that violated international law.

  9. How sad, but expected, to learn that Secretary Clinton is headed to Jerusalem and will meet with Netanyahu and Abbas, but not Hamas. The U.S.A. is backing the wrong horse, once again, and earning the condemnation of the international community. Will this ever stop?

    • I heard the newsreader say this morning on NPR that Secty Clinton would not meet with Hamas, because the US Congress had made it “illegal” to do so.

  10. Even in truce, the Israeli policies are crime against humanity. What else do you call a nation that subjects people to policies that they have to smuggle live animals via underground tunnels.

    link to i.huffpost.com

  11. “This Arabic-language report says that Israeli warplanes targeted the Jordanian field hospital late on Monday. I have not been able to find confirmation for this report, but if it is true, and deliberate, it would be a war crime.”

    Professor Cole, please follow up on confirmation.

    If confirmed, the US Government must immediately break all diplomatic relations with Israel, cease all trade and demand that the military personnel and officials involved in the attack be brought to justice in the International Court of Justice of the United Nations.

    The US must also remove all US supplied military aircraft, equipment, supplies and nuclear weapons from Israel and place them in a lawful, responsible country.

    Israel is guilty of continuing international crimes and crimes against humanity and must be dealt with as appropriate. Enough crap from the corrupt US Government, Congress and the illegal President Obama whose father was never a US citizen as required by the Constitution.

  12. I read almost in disbelief the AIPAC lies passed as a motion without dissent by the “US Senate” and the “US House of Representatives”. Every phrase was misrepresentation and every word was blaming Hamas, with not a suggestion of any restraint on Israel’s actions (called “self defense”). How can a so-called superpower, or any sovereign State, demean itself by destroying any possible respect any rational observer could have for a “nation” that claims to be a world leader?

  13. It’s worth remembering that one of “Israel’s early acts of retaliation [during the first intifada] was to deport the Palestinian-American pacifist Mubarak Awad of the Center for the Study of Nonviolence.”

    When the arena is one of violence, Israel wins. When good faith negotiations occur, Israel can only lose since it is the occupier. link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  14. Exactly why does Israel have a right to defend itself? It came into being through theft and dirty deals, and it commits war crimes regularly.

  15. If the Nobel Peace Prize Committee had made the right choice they would have given a peace prize to the truly heroic doctors and other medical personnel in Iraq who coped with the carnage created by our shock-and-awe (blitzkrieg) during our illegal war on that nation and by our crimes against humanity. I suggest the committee get it right next time and give the prize to the doctors and medical personnel coping with the carnage created in Gaza by our Israeli “allies” using the tools of death and destruction given them in our name. I would also suggest the committee not nominate some politician who might use his or her acceptance speech for some Orwellian justification of war and its attendant slaughter of innocents.

  16. 7. “Israeli hawks demonize the Palestinian residents of Gaza as followers of Hamas, a party-militia of the Muslim religious right. But half of Palestinians in Gaza are minors, who never voted for Hamas and cannot be held collectively responsible for that party.”

    Hamas won the democratically held parliamentary elections back in ‘o6. Incidentally—Hamas is a construction of Israel. Israel created Hamas to bring down the PLO and particularly Arafat who was very powerful at the time. Our refusal to recognize Hamas as a representative of the Palestinian people promotes dehumanized understandings of the local actualities that inform Palestinians’ local worlds.

    3. “Israeli hawks represent their war of aggression as in ‘self-defense.’ But the UK Israeli chief rabbi admitted on camera that that the Gaza attack actually ‘had something to do with Iran.’”

    Gaza under siege = Netanyahu’s initiative to secure win for upcoming 19th Knesset. To think that the mass slaughter of civilians correlates to a highly political beef with Iran and not the political objectives of the Israeli occupation is foolish and dangerous.

  17. Dr. Cole,
    I agree with you that the oppression of the Palestinian people by Israel, particularly the current violence in Gaza, is ethically wrong. At the same time I respectfully suggest that there is more to the story than this.
    At the outset I asked myself two questions: Why is Hamas continuing to fire missiles at Israel knowing that further violence against the population will result? And, Do the people of Gaza support their leaders’ actions?
    Subsequently I have read reports from mainstream sources including mcclatchy, msn, AP, that 1. Hamas has made demands that Israel lift the sea blockade, open the border with Sinai, and cease assassination of their leadership before the missiles will stop; 2. These demands are part of the current negotiations over a cease-fire, led by Egypt; 3. Due to the Arab spring and turnover in governments Hamas has increased leverage within the Arab world and versus the US to force Israel to back off (you did reprint an Arab commentator’s article on this point).
    From this perspective what we are witnessing is not simply atrocities by a stronger power against a lesser one (it is that), but also the leadership and people of Gaza putting themselves into harm’s way in pursuit of concrete objectives to improve the condition of their state. Although not a path of nonviolent resistance, it is certainly a path of use of essentially symbolic violence against a deadly and asymmetric adversary. If Gaza succeeds they will have caused an incremental but profound change in the balance of mideast power. For the present at least, the resolve of the people appears to be holding.
    You are my go-to reference for objective news and analysis of the mid-east. I am a little surprised that you haven’t considered the broader implications of this conflict.

    • As you know, this is all complicated stuff, worse than trying to figure out the Krebs/citric acid cycle in Biology 101 and without disinterested scientists working to make it all clear.

      Ask yourself another question (there are many more, of course): What’s the value of the natural gas reserves found off the Gaza coast in an area that for anyone else would clearly be ‘national interest’ territory, but which the Israeli government acts as if they already own it (apparently by “right of conquest.”) link to zerohedge.com

      And of course as with Apartheid South Africa, keeping the Palestinians down and out both aims at providing a cheap, expendable labor pool for Israeli businesses, and if the Likudniks are right, eventually a gradual disappearance or extermination of people with claims to land and resources at least as cognizable as the ones they make. If the Ls are wrong, and as has often happened in our human tragicomedy desperation reaches that critical mass before the “Arabs” expire from starvation, there will be hell to pay for the comfortable Israelis who support and facilitate all this. And there’s no Nelson Mandela to tamp down the chain reaction here.

      Maybe the mouse is not plotting some huge PR coup against that implacable asymmetric tiger of an adversary as much as simply, once again, acting from pent-up anger and desperation. Not all the world is made up of “rational actors” and Masters of the Great Game.

  18. Since 2006 Gazan’s ‘militants’ showered more than 5000 rockets and about the same amount of mortar shells on Israeli c i v i l i a n communities , but – luckily and due to Israeli’s proper passive defensive behaviour – not as many casualties.
    I don’t recall any condemnation of the Gazan 5000 rockets !!!
    Stop bombardig Israel – and there will not be Israeli retaliation.

    • Stop stealing Palestinian property – and give back what was stolen – and there will not be Palestinian retaliation.

      Oh, that’t the part of the story Americans aren’t allowed to talk about. Never mind.

  19. perhaps Nato could establish a no fly zone over Israel?

  20. Yesterday’s Italian newspaper La Repubblica carried a report yesterday authored by Fabio Scuto; the following passage struck me (translation follows):
    La campagna aerea, le eliminazioni mirate, la distruzione di “arsenali” e commissariati di polizia è proseguita anche ieri — 23 le vittime della giornata, che portano i morti palestinesi a oltre 100 — ma una indicazione che le cose a Gaza per Israele non stanno andando come previsto è l’aumento costante del numero di vittime tra i civili palestinesi. Anche prima della strage della famiglia Al Dalou, i resoconti delle vittime tra i bambini, le donne e gli anziani si sono moltiplicati, mentre il danno causato ai militanti di Hamas o di altre organizzazioni è stato relativamente limitato. Ci sono diverse ragioni per questo: Hamas opera all’interno di una popolazione civile, e nasconde i suoi arsenali in aree edificate. Lo stesso vale per lanciamissili, missili e altre armi ancora. Inoltre, gran parte dei militanti è molto attenta a non rimanere al di sopra del suolo gran parte della giornata. Resta nella rete di gallerie costruite sotto la Striscia negli ultimi anni e certamente è a rischiopiù basso rispetto alla maggioranza della popolazione di Gaza. Il lancio di un missile poi è estremamente rapido e avviene talvolta tramite telecomando.
    The air campaign, the targeted eliminations, the destruction of “arsenals” and police stations continued yesterday — 23 died yesterday, bringing the number of Palestinian dead to over 100 — but an indication that things in Gaza are not going as planned is the constant increase of the number of victims among Palestinian civilians. Even before the slaughter of the Al Dalou family, the number of victims among children, women and the old have multiplied, while the damage caused to Hamas militants has been relatively limited. There are different reasons for this: Hamas operates from within the civil population, and hides its arsenals in housing districts. It’s the same for rockets, missiles, and other kinds of arms. In addition, large numbers of of militants are very careful not to remain above ground for most of the day. They remain in the network of tunnels constructed under the Gaza strip in recent years and without a doubt are at a much lower risk than the majority of the population of Gaza. The launch of a missile is extremely rapid and can happen at times via telecommando.

  21. The aforementioned World Health Organization report is the truth of what Israel is very carefully carrying out: to eliminate the Palestinian population by 2020.

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