Sun 25 Feb 2024 12:16 pm - Jerusalem Time

Washington Post: Gaza doctors between displacement, arrest and death

The anesthesiologist, after 4 months of harsh work and atrocities, did not want to leave his work at Nasser Hospital last month when Israeli tanks approached him, but he knew that doctors in Gaza would face one of three things at the time of war with the invading army: either displacement or arrest or death.

With these sentences, The Washington Post - in a report written by Miriam Berger - summarized the fears of the anesthesiologist who fled Khan Yunis, for fear that he would be accused of supporting Hamas, be forced to take off his clothes and sit blindfolded, and be exposed to the images of humiliation he saw published online, and the violations he heard of what Palestinian residents of Gaza were subjected to in Israeli secret detention sites, especially since he has 6 children and a large family in Rafah that depends on him.

The doctor described his experience to the Washington Post, on condition of anonymity, for his safety. He said by phone from Rafah that he fled the hospital sadly on January 26, and joined the growing cadre of displaced medical workers in the Gaza Strip, and is now living in Nylon tent.

Detained and displaced doctors

The anesthesiologist fled with three other medical workers, but he was the only one who was able to reach Rafah after his companions returned to the hospital in fear. He says, “There were a lot of gunshots and a lot of destruction, and I had to leave because I have a large family that I am responsible for.” .

The anesthesiologist believes that his three colleagues are now among 70 doctors, nurses and medical technicians who were taken by Israeli forces from Nasser Hospital and detained, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, indicating that he may have crossed the checkpoints because he was carrying a child who he found alone in the chaos of the escape.

There are more than 100 medical workers in Israeli prisons, and their whereabouts and exact condition are not known.

The Ministry of Health believes that the rest are displaced, and Ministry official Ahmed Shatat said that most of the doctors have fled their homes to the south, and most of them live in tents, devoting their days to trying to find food and water so that they and their families can survive.

Many doctors - according to the newspaper - fear returning to the medical sector and its severe crises, as the Gaza Strip’s population of 2.2 million people stands on the brink of famine - according to the United Nations - and infectious diseases are spreading among them, and analysts and relief workers warn that hunger and disease could kill more people than Israeli weapons.

There is no health system

A small number of hospitals and medical facilities in Gaza are still open, even partially, the newspaper says.

Christopher Lockyer, Secretary-General of Doctors Without Borders, asked the UN Security Council: “How can we sustain any kind of response when medical workers are being targeted, attacked and vilified for helping the wounded? There is no health system to speak of.” In Gaza, the Israeli army dismantled hospitals, one by one.”

Israel says that doctors and hospitals provide cover for fighters of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), but Palestinian doctors and international medical volunteers confirmed that they saw no sign of armed activity.

Human rights groups also say that Israeli raids on medical facilities and medical professionals violate international law, and are disproportionate to any threat posed by militants who may have been in hospitals.

Israel retains the authority to detain Gazans without charge under the 2002 Unlawful Combatants Law, a form of administrative detention that human rights groups say violates international law.

“The detention of these doctors can be seen as an extension of attacks on hospitals and medical facilities, which are supposed to be protected under international law,” said Badour Hassan, a researcher at Amnesty International.

Some displaced doctors have set up free clinics in camps and shelters for the displaced. The anesthesiologist works several days a week at Al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah. He does not feel safe, especially when the Israeli army announced that it is heading towards Rafah. “If something happens to Rafah, where can we go?” ".


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Washington Post: Gaza doctors between displacement, arrest and death