To attack and destroy healthcare is to destroy hope, and it is a classic war strategy.
These were the words of world-renowned physician, humanitarian, and activist Dr Mads Gilbert, who is currently visiting South Africa to share his experiences as Israel continues to launch attacks on Gaza.
Gilbert, who was based at al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza, said Israeli forces are “systematically attacking healthcare in Palestine” and spoke about how there is no proof of there being a Hamas operation centre under the hospital. Last week, Israeli forces raided the hospital, saying they believed there was a Hamas base beneath it.
“The Israeli propaganda machine and mainstream media are completely obsessed with trying to prove that al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is a Hamas military command centre.
“I have never seen it. My colleagues who have been working there from the international community have never seen it. I have not seen any high-ranking people from the resistance. I have not seen one soldier in the hospital,” said Gilbert, noting that he does not call Hamas a terror group, instead calling it the Palestinian resistance group.
He said that everyone fighting for their lives and doing what they can is part of this resistance.
“The Israeli occupation army is systematically attacking healthcare in Palestine,” added Gilbert.
According to the latest data, there were hundreds of health attacks.
In Gaza alone, there were 152 health attacks, 38 ambulances affected, 16 health workers killed, and 38 health workers injured.
In the West Bank, there were a total of 158 health attacks, 129 ambulances affected, and 22 health workers injured.
There have been nearly 200 healthcare personnel killed in the attacks, including 31 doctors, 68 nurses, 20 paramedics, 26 pharmacists, and 14 lab staff.
There are 36 hospitals in Gaza. On October 8, 34 hospitals were partially functioning and two were not functioning.
However, a month later, on November 14, it was recorded that there were only nine partially functioning hospitals and 27 non-functioning hospitals.
There is almost no primary healthcare system in Gaza.
Gilbert said Israel is committing “humongous war crimes”, saying what they are doing is "mass killing in an industrialised form.”
As of October 8, 12,000 Palestinians were killed (50% of whom were children) and 28,000 were wounded (30% of whom were children).
In a span of only four weeks, 40,000 Palestinians were killed or wounded. This amounts to a staggering 10,000 people per week. But these are not just numbers. They were people, and they had names — a point that Gilbert reiterates.
He called on governments to do more and for citizens to take action where they can and stand in solidarity with those in Palestine.
“South Africa is our hope. South Africa knows about racism and apartheid. The people in Palestine don’t want words; they want food and water. They don’t want promises; they need aid and fuel.”
In attendance was Sekunjalo Chairman Dr Iqbal Survé who said Gilbert is a hero and that he is an inspiration to us all.