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Nakba 2 is the goal of the Israeli strategy

Nov 22,2023 - Last updated at Nov 22,2023

Since launching its latest war on Gaza on October 7, Israel has systematically decimated the strip's healthcare sector, which had been crippled by Israel's 16-year seige and blockade. This led to shortages of medications and denial of medical equipment and permits for ailing Palestinians to leave Gaza for specialist treatment. Today, most of the Gaza strip's healthcare faciltiies, and clinics, are out of service due to Israeli bombing and denial of medications and fuel for electricity which provides light, powers essential machines and brings water. According to World Health Organisation envoys who last weekend spent an hour inspecting Gaza City's largely evacuated Al Shifa hospital it was a "dead zone" occupied by Israeli troops while remaining patients and doctors awaited ambulances to transfer them to another blasted and power-starved hospital in the south of the strip where it is no safer than the north and centre.

Palestinian commentators have argued that Israel uses aerial bombs, artillery shells, and drones to attack civilian infrastructure to punish and terrorise Palestinians so they will cease resisting the occupation. This could be true but there is another more compelling reason for adopting such a campaign, particularly in Gaza and, over the long term, in the occupied West Bank. Ultimately, Israel seeks to devastate housing, hospitals, clinics, schools, public buildings, bakeries, groceries, office buildings and essential infrastructure with the objective of making it impossible for Palestinians to continue living in their homeland. Nakba 2 is, therefore, the goal of the Israeli strategy.

While water, food, shelter, light and heat are essential for life, hospitals ensure care and treatment in peace and war. During conflicts, injured people are brought to hospitals where wounds can be tended, desperate women can seek help during the birth of children after their homes have been obliterated, homeless families can seek shelter from bombs, bullets and harsh weather. Hospitals are magnets for frightened defenceless people. So, too, to a lesser extent are schools, mosques and churches, but Israel bombs and strafes them as well.

Among Gaza's hospitals are facilities built, staffed and funded by many countries: Jordan, the Emirates, Kuwait, Algeria, Turkey, Qatar and Indonesia. After blastingg, occupying and evacuating most patients and staff at Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Israel turned its attention to the Indonesian hospital near heavily bombed Jabaliya UNRWA camp in the north where hundreds of terrified civilians had taken refuge, and the wounded could still secure basic first aid if not full-scale medical care.

The calls of WHO, UNICEF which looks after children, and international relief agencies have urgently demanded Israel stop focusing on hospitals, but their calls have fallen on deaf ears. As long as its politicians have the full backing of the US, Germany, and some other Western countries, Israel is not obliged to listen and desist. Senior politicians from these countries become accomplices in the systematic devastation of Gaza and decimation of its inhabitants.

Israel's cover story bought by many in the West is that resistance commanders and fighters, whether Hamas, Fateh or other groups, use civilians as "human shields" and shelter in civilian "objects" — to adopt the term for installations employed by experts drafting the laws of war.

Since launching its latest Gaza offensive, Israel homed in on Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, the largest in the narrow strip. Israel claimed Hamas used tunnels under Al Shifa as a major command centre to direct its campaign against the Israeli forces. After occupying Al Shifa the Israeli forces touted video of a hole in the ground, claiming it was the entrance to a major command tunnel near Al Shifa. Israel also published photos of the interior showing a built space said to be 55 metres long.

Israel’s claim was firmly refuted on Monday November 20 during Christiane Amanpour’s interview with Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister, defence minister and army chief-of-staff. Barak revealed that it has been known for “many years [[that} Israeli contractors [built a] bunker” Beneath Al Shifa during expansion and renovation of the hospital. He could not confirm that this “bunker” was a major Hamas command post but said that Hamas could have command centres across Gaza at “sensitive” sites.

Hospitals are particularly “sensitive” during times of war. "Hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law," Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch (HRW), told Middle East Eye website. Article 19 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions states that medical services "may in no circumstances be attacked but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict". Shakir said that hospitals lose protection if they are used to violate international laws. He said that HRW has, so far, found no evidence of this.

Furthermore, Shakir said Article 56 of the conventions says that "to the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory". He argued that whatever the situation "hospitals cannot be free-fire zones". Whatever the situation, he said, civilians retain protections under international humanitarian law. But this has never worried Israel for Israel is above the law.

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