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Gaza doctor at Indonesian Hospital: ‘Come and see, you won't find tunnels and bombs, you will only find our people dying.’

November 10, 2023 at 5:08 pm

Rumah Sakit Indonesia hospital in Gaza City on November 1, 2023 [BASHAR TALEB/AFP via Getty Images]

The war in Gaza has had a devastating impact on the region’s healthcare system. The ongoing Israeli attacks on hospitals, in addition to homes, shelters and schools, have been a hallmark of the war.

At least 16 out of the 35 hospitals in Gaza are no longer operational, and 51 out of the 72 primary healthcare clinics in the besieged area have ceased to provide services since 7 October.

Dr Marwan Sultan, Medical Director of Indonesian Hospital in Gaza

Dr Marwan Sultan, Medical Director of Indonesian Hospital in Gaza

According to Dr Marwan Sultan, who serves as the Indonesian Hospital’s Medical Director, the majority of the casualties comprise women and children. “Believe me, two-thirds of the patients we are receiving are women and children.”

“They arrive with severe burns, missing limbs, life-risking injuries, and we are not able to treat them efficiently because of low fuel supply.”

The Indonesian Hospital, located in Beit Lahia, serving over 150,000 residents in northern Gaza, is on the brink of ceasing its operations, raising alarm among health officials.

Marwan explained that the hospital faces a critical situation with only 16 intensive-care beds and  dangerously low fuel supply, which puts the lives of his patients at risk. He expressed deep concern, stating that if the electricity supply is disrupted, it could lead to fatal consequences.

The scarcity of fuel, he added, may also disrupt the operation of dialysis machines, posing a potential threat to the lives of numerous patients diagnosed with kidney failure. “We are in the red zone,” warned Sultan.

In addition to being overwhelmed with patients suffering severe injuries from bombings, the hospitals are serving as shelters for thousands of people displaced from their homes – an evacuation procedure they had learned during previous attacks.

Despite largely avoiding Israeli bombardments for over a decade, the hospital grounds have become a crucial haven for those seeking refuge.

According to the UN, approximately 1.4 million of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents are now internally displaced. Nearly half of them have sought refuge in UN shelters, while the remaining half have sought makeshift accommodation in other people’s homes, hospitals or public facilities. However, this phase of the war has proven that nowhere can guarantee safety.

Attacks on or in close proximity to medical facilities and personnel have contributed to the significant setback to the Gaza healthcare system since the war began.

“It’s nothing like we’ve ever seen and experienced. It’s unbearable,” said Dr Marwan. “People are squashed with patients all over the hospital grounds. It smells and looks very bad, it’s a dangerous state. But everywhere is dangerous now, no place is better or safer than the other right now.”

An estimated 25 ambulances have been hit, and 136 healthcare workers killed since the start of the war. In the last three days alone, Israeli warplanes have bombed eight hospitals in the Gaza Strip, the government media office in Gaza said today.

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Israel’s military has admitted to targeting ambulances, claiming that one of the vehicles in a medical convoy last week was “being used by a Hamas terrorist cell”. In the resulting explosion, a significant number of health workers were tragically killed.

Using the same accusation as pretext, claiming that the Indonesian Hospital is situated above a network of Hamas tunnels and in close proximity to a launch site for rocket attacks against the Occupying State, Israeli warplanes launched a series of aggressive raids in the vicinity of the hospital housing tens of thousands of wounded, sick, and displaced individuals, a majority of whom are women and children.

The bombing caused substantial damage to some of the hospital facilities.

In response to the accusations, Dr Marwan, said, “None of this is true. They just want to attack the hospitals and make things up to do so. This is a hospital that was built by Indonesia in 2016 to help treat the people of Gaza. Come and see, you won’t find tunnels and bombs, you will only find our people dying.”

Israel has launched relentless air and ground attacks on Gaza since a cross border attack by Hamas on 7 October. At least 10,569 Palestinians have been killed, including 4,324 children and 2,823 women, and 26,475 have been wounded.

The toll rises every day, with some of the casualties believed to still be buried under rubble.

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine - Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

Besieged Gaza is the open-air prison resisting Israel’s colonisation of Palestine – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

“I am seeing horrors I haven’t seen in previous wars; this also means the wounds and injuries the patients are coming with,” said Dr. Marwan.

“The severe burns and the tears in bodies our physicians are treating in the emergency rooms are becoming more and more intense. And this could only mean the Israelis are using new weapons.” The hospital, he explained, is prioritising cases based on survival rates, allocating opportunities for surgery or space in intensive care wards to those with a higher likelihood of survival.

“We cannot risk doing just any operations except for the most serious and highly likely life-saving surgeries, because there isn’t enough supplies. The situation is critical, it is desperate,” insisted Dr. Marwan. “Many colleagues have died and many of us haven’t seen our families since the beginning of the war. We haven’t seen our families for over a month now.”

Dr Marwan echoes the growing international calls for Israel to agree to a ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza. “Israel must stop the attacks. The Rafah crossing must open to allow the entry of fuel and medical supplies. Also, there are many patients here that need to be treated outside Gaza like Egypt and Turkiye.

He took a long silent pause.

“This massacre has reached the red zone. We need a ceasefire.”

READ: UN official slams Israel’s four-hour ‘humanitarian pause’ in Gaza as ‘highly cynical’