Israel forces hundreds of sick, wounded and homeless Palestinians from Gaza’s al-Shifa hospital

At dawn on Nov. 15, with the full approval of the Biden administration, the Israeli Defense Force stormed al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical complex in Gaza. After ransacking the hospital for days, on Nov. 18, the IDF forced 500 of the sick and wounded, medical providers and displaced people sheltered there to leave on foot, giving them one hour to evacuate.

The scene mirrored the 1948 Palestinian Nakba or the Trail of Tears, the forced march inflicted on Indigenous people in the U.S. Sick children struggled to walk, displaced people, some carrying on their backs wounded relatives or parents too frail to walk, streamed out of the hospital and passed through a gauntlet of Israeli soldiers.

That same day a World Health Organization team visited this key medical facility, said it was no longer functioning, and said it was reduced to a “death zone.” Meanwhile, the IDF is bombing the Indonesian Hospital, the last hospital still functioning in northern Gaza.

Symbol of a genocidal war

The ransacking and forced evacuation al-Shifa stands as a symbol of this genocide committed by the most powerful military in the Middle East against a people living in poverty, without an army, navy or air force. It exposes the bankruptcy of arrogant Israeli rulers claiming hospitals as “valid military targets” that “shelter Hamas command centers.” It reveals as craven the IDF’s flattening of bakeries, food and water storage centers, power stations and blocks of civilian apartment buildings in the name  “defending Israel’s right to exist.”

Equally exposed are the Western capitalist governments and their corporate media’s blatant justification of Israel’s war crimes. Standing head and shoulders above these genocide enablers is Israel’s handler, the U.S. government.

But there is another side. In many ways this atrocious aggression has backfired, and Israel and its backers are in a no-win situation. The settler-colonial, ethnic-cleansing nature of the Israeli state stands fully exposed, and cannot be hidden by any Western media PR.  Israel has been shown to be totally dependent on the U.S.  

On the military front, the IDF has been unable to defeat the resistance and, like the U.S. in Afghanistan, is stuck in a quagmire. While Israel’s genocidal tactics kill many people, they also create tomorrow’s Palestinian freedom fighters. Events in Gaza have brought more attention than ever to the Palestinian cause, and ignited a passionate worldwide movement for freedom in Palestine.

Patients ‘humiliated by soldiers along the road

On Nov. 15 hundreds of Israeli soldiers began raiding all sections of the al-Shifa hospital complex, bulldozing buildings and demolishing equipment.  Arrested were scores of both medical personnel and many displaced persons, among the thousands who sought refuge from bombing on the hospital grounds. Some of those detained were blindfolded, and their clothes removed. Israeli soldiers fired on anyone trying to leave the medical complex. Then, on Nov. 18, the hospital was ordered evacuated.

The following account of the forced evacuation of al-Shifa is from Aljazeera, which has reporters and contacts in Gaza.

Israeli forces ordered doctors, patients and displaced people at Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital to evacuate the medical compound, forcing some to leave by gunpoint

Mohammed Zaqout, director general of hospitals in Gaza doctor in the hospital told Al Jazeera that at around 9 am local time (7:00 GMT), they received the order from the Israelis to leave in “one hour”, but that it was “impossible” to evacuate everyone as they did not have ambulances or transportation means to transfer patients…

Ismail al-Thawabta, director general of the government media office in Gaza, said the Israeli army forced out more than 500 wounded people and patients at gunpoint.

“Al-Shifa Hospital has turned into a detention camp, an interrogation centre, a military barracks and mass grave altogether,” he said.

Many people left on foot. But “patients who cannot move, amputees, and those with critical conditions” were forced to remain behind with a handful of medical staff, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, the director of the al-Shifa Hospital, told Al Jazeera. “The situation is really dire,” he said, adding that the facility was largely deserted.

Those in al-Shifa had included at least 300 patients, many of them in critical condition, as well as thousands of displaced families.

It also included “at least 35 premature babies who already for eight days now have been out of their incubators because of the lack of oxygen and the lack of electricity”, ElSayed said….

Munir al-Barsh, a doctor at al-Shifa Hospital, said that the Israeli army warned that all those leaving had to wave a white handkerchief and walk in a single line.

“They were humiliated by soldiers all along the road,” al-Barsh told Al Jazeera.

“Many of the patients were put on wheelchairs or rolling beds. Family members were forced to carry their wounded children or parents themselves … These are horrible, unprecedented scenes,” he said.

“There is no transportation means in Gaza City and the northern parts because of a lack of fuel. So people are expected to evacuate on foot,” ElSayed said.

She said Israel’s army had not provided people evacuating with any means of transportation, with any fuel for ambulances or for any cars to transfer patients, premature babies and displaced families.

Israel’s cowardly war on Gaza’s hospitals

This is part of a systematic attack on Gaza’s medical infactructure. Healthcare facilities all over Gaza are being pushed to the brink of collapse with their medical staff  attacked and killed. The World Health Organization reports that as of Nov. 12, at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, were killed  in 137 “attacks on health care” in Gaza.

The Indonesian Hospital, a critical care institution, was struck repeatedly from Oct. 7 to Oct. 28, causing many deaths. The International Eye Care Center was completely destroyed by bombs on Oct. 10- 11. The Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital was hit on Oct. 30-31, forcing it to close on Nov. 1. The al-Quds Hospital has been hit, causing injuries to patients and staff.

As of Nov. 10, WHO reports that 18 out of 36 hospitals and 46 out of 72 primary care clinics had to shut down due to damage from attacks and a lack of essential resources like electricity and fuel.

Photo: Thousands of Palestinians sheltering in the al-Shifa complex to escape bombing. Many have now been forced out. Credit: WAFA

U.S. gives green light to all-out aggression against al-Shifa

Turning reality on its head, Israel is hailing these shameful and criminal assaults on unarmed healthcare facilities, caregivers and sick people as completing the military objective of destroying Hamas command centers located under the hospitals. That such command centers exist has been vehemently denied by Hamas and hospital personnel, who have called on international human rights groups independent of Israel to inspect medical facilities and see for themselves.  

Like the false stories of Hamas beheading Israeli children and raping women, the “Hamas command post under hospitals” claim is a cover for this IDF genocide. And like the beheading and rape claims, this lie of a giant Hamas command post under al-Shifa holding many hostages was seconded by the Biden administration, Israel’s chief backer and weapons supplier. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the day before the Israeli raid on that hospital that the United States had its own intelligence, (details of which they would not share-JC), of a Hamas military presence at al-Shifa.

It makes no sense that the al-Aqsa Flood resistance fighters, who launched a surprise military offensive on Oct. 7 so sophisticated that it destroyed Israeli’s southern command, would need command posts under hospitals. Nor does it explain why the resistance would even think to put a command post under al-Shifa since Israeli has been claiming Hamas had a command post under that hospital since 2009.

Meanwhile, after seizing the hospital, the best “proof” the Israeli military could offer of a Hamas command post was a video displaying 13 guns, a  laptop and a Hamas uniform they claimed they found. A day later, a still photo of a hole dug in the ground containing a ladder was presented as “proof” of a complex Hamas command post.

Baby bottles and diapers offered as ‘proof’ of Hamas bunker

Paving the way for the storming of al-Shifa was an English-language Israeli propaganda video  claiming to show that resistance fighters using the basement of Rantisi children’s hospital in Gaza City, which Israel had taken over,  as a place to hold captives. In the video Israeli army spokesperson Daniel Hagari points to a cord, a baby bottle, curtains and a pack of diapers as his “proof.” The most damning evidence, he says, is a roster on the wall with the names of the “terrorists” and their shift for guarding the hostages.

“This is a guardians’ list, where every terrorist writes his name and every terrorist has his own shift, guarding the people that were here.” A screen shot of the so-called roster, however, shows it to be a wall calendar, the so-called “names of the guards” nothing more than the days of the week.

Screen shot of the “guardians’ list” that turned out to be a wall calendar with the days of the week and no names.

Western corporate media a mouthpiece for Tel Aviv’s lies

These weak and transparent lies would seem pathetic if it wasn’t for the fact that the Western corporate media, from the New York Times to Fox News, supports the Israeli government by sensationalizing its propaganda and repeating again and again lies like the beheading of children and Hamas command posts in hospitals, even when clearly disproven.

The U.S. establishment media reflects the U.S. government’s full complicity in Israeli’s war crimes. Immediately after the launch of Israel’s unprecedented bombing of Gaza last month, President Biden offered Tel Aviv “unwavering” support, made a personal visit to Israel and embraced Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, sent two U.S. aircraft carrier groups to the Mediterranean to protect its key client there, and began rushing huge amounts of arms to the settler state.

Israel ‘s weakness exposed

While it’s clear that Israel can kill Palestinians, events in Gaza have exposed the weakness of this settler state and of its backers.

The settler-colonial nature of the Israeli state cannot be papered over. The state of Israel ‘s own actions in Gaza exposed it as an apartheid state, oppressor and ethnic cleanser. No bogus claims of being “the only democracy in the Middle East” and other PR hype holds any water now.

Israel is totally dependent on the U.S. Despite the invincible image the Israeli military seeks to project, it could not hold its own against a people’s insurrection of a few thousand fighters in a volatile area of the world hostile to Zionism and imperialism. Washington had to rush its client state huge amounts of weapons and send in two aircraft carrier groups to protect it from a few thousand fighters with no rear base.

Genocidal tactics have not defeated the resistance. Israeli tanks can roll down Gaza’s beach and attack hospitals, but the occupiers have not been able to take any ground in Gaza. Fighters, with their shoulder-mounted rockets, continue to ambush and take out tanks and other Israeli vehicles. To take ground , these Israeli reservists, now called to active duty, must come out of their tanks. For most of them, their only military experience has been policing and harassing unarmed Palestinians at West Bank checkpoints, or protecting rampaging settlers. They are reluctant to face dedicated Palestinian fighters itching for hand-to hand combat in the streets and alleys where they grew up.

Even while Gaza is carpet-bombed, fighters continue to lob rockets from Gaza, hitting as far away as Tel Aviv.

Like the U.S. in Afghanistan, Israel is stuck in a no-win quagmire. Like the U.S. in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel is an occupier surrounded by a hostile population. Any territorial gains made by the oppressor in the day are taken back by the population at night. This is a no-win situation. The U.S. did not win in these countries, and Israel cannot win in Palestine.

Genocide in Gaza is creating tomorrow’s fighters. Should this U.S.-Israeli project ethnically cleanse Gaza, it still will not succeed. The hungry and thirsty Palestinian children who today are being marched by gunpoint from al-Shifa hospital in a trail of tears will surely be the fighters in tomorrow’s al-Aqsa Flood offensive.

Events in Gaza have taken the plight of the Palestinian people off the back burner and ignited the biggest grassroots worldwide movement ever in support of Palestine. In the U.S., hundreds of thousands are taking to the streets, taking their lead from the determination of the Palestinian people. Campuses and city councils are being occupied. Ships delivering weapons to Israel have been stopped in port. All are calling for a ceasefire in Gaza and are targeting the U.S. as fully complicit in these war crimes.

What’s more, today the fight for a free Palestine raises the hopes and dreams of all who suffer under capitalism and imperialism for their own liberation. We are all Palestinian!

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