The United Nations Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths says he’s appalled by reports of military raids inside the Al Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City.
Israeli troops entered Gaza’s biggest hospital on Wednesday after a days-long siege of the complex causing global alarm about the thousands of civilians sheltering and or seeking care at the facility.
Israel and the United States say Hamas uses the hospital to shield its military operations and to hold hostages, but the militant group has denied the claim.
Martin Griffiths, who is the Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, says the protection of newborns, patients, medical staff and other civilians “must” override all other concerns, adding that hospitals were not battlegrounds. His statement says the warring parties must respect international humanitarian law, agree to a ceasefire and stop the fighting.
This is as Hamas accused the White House and the Pentagon of adopting what they call a false narrative in relation to the Al Shifa hospital’s use for military purposes, arguing it was a green light for the Israeli occupation to commit more massacres against civilians.
US intelligence earlier backed Israel’s claim that the Al Shifa hospital was used to conceal and support Hamas’ military operations, even as President Joe Biden expressed concern about the conditions at the hospital saying the facility needed to be protected.
A readout of a call between himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the two leaders discussed at length efforts to secure the release of hostages with the President expressing some optimism in that regard.
“Mr President, can you address the hostages directly and give them a message of hope and resilience in these troubling times?” a journalist asked.
“Yes, I can, I’ve been talking with the people involved every single day. I believe it’s going to happen, but I don’t want to get into detail,” says Joe Biden, US President.
The Reuters news agency reporting on Wednesday that State of Qatar negotiators are seeking to firm up a possible deal between Hamas and Israel that includes the release of about 50 hostages in exchange for a three-day ceasefire and the possible release of Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
This, as frustration boils over as expressed by this physician who recently left Gaza City to lobby for a ceasefire.
Emergency Medicine Volunteer at Al Shifa hospital, Dr Mads Gilbert says, “You have to choose sides. You have to decide in these dark weeks which side you are on in history. Are you on the side of death, occupation and colonialism or are you on the side of freedom, justice, and equality between people?
“If you choose that side, it’s time to get up, it’s time to be an active, solidarity voice. No voice is too weak, no poem is too insignificant, and no demonstration is too small. We all now need to stand with the Palestinian people and to the leaders of the United States, Mr Biden, Mr Blinken, and the state leaders in Europe, I ask you, when are you going to stop this massacre of the Palestinian people, when are you going to abide by international law and behave like humans. Until then, nobody will respect you,” laments Dr Gilbert.
With President Cyril Ramaphosa is currently in Qatar on a State visit, the issue is front and centre.
President Ramaphosa says, “We both abhor what is happening right now in Gaza, which has now turned into a concentration camp where genocide is taking place. We stated our position as of South Africa very clearly that we are opposed to the operations that are ongoing, particularly, as it is now targeting hospitals with babies, women and the injured dying like flies and where care of life is something that has been completely ignored and put aside.
“As South Africa, we have accordingly, together with many other countries in the world, saw fit to refer this whole Israeli government action to the International Criminal Court. We have put through a referral because we believe that war crimes are being committed there. And of course, we do not condone the actions that were taken by Hamas earlier. But similarly, we condemn the actions that are now currently underway and believe that they warrant an investigation by the ICC,” he adds.
The UN says that as the carnage in Gaza reaches new levels of horror every day, the world continues to watch in shock as hospitals come under fire, premature babies die, and an entire population is deprived of the basic means of survival “this cannot be allowed to continue”.
All this as the Security Council continues to negotiate a draft resolution on the protection of children, dithering that continues to miss the moment as efforts elsewhere, including by Qatar, appear to be gaining greater traction.