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100+ Days into Israel’s War on Gaza, Doctors Demand Ceasefire to Address “Apocalyptic” Health Crisis

Written by on 17/01/2024


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González.

Major rallies calling for a ceasefire in Gaza were held worldwide this weekend, marking 100 days of the Israeli assault on Gaza. Those rallies included one in Washington, D.C., where organizers say 400,000 people protested U.S. complicity in what they called one of the deadliest and most destructive military assaults in recent history. Palestinian health officials say Israeli attacks have killed 158 civilians in Gaza over the last 24 hours alone, bringing the death toll since October 7th to 24,000, though this likely an undercount — the majority of those killed women and children. It’s believed more than 10,000 children have died.

On Sunday, President Biden put a statement marking 100 days since the October 7th Hamas attack and condemned Hamas for continuing to hold more than 100 hostages. But he made no mention of the tens of thousands of Palestinians killed, injured or displaced during Israel’s bombardment.

On Monday, United Nations humanitarian leaders issued a joint demand for dramatically increasing the flow of aid into Gaza. This is the World Food Programme’s Palestine country director, Samer AbdelJaber.

SAMER ABDELJABER: Everyone in Gaza is hungry. We are exploring all possible solutions, but none are sufficient in the face of obstacles. There are people starving in areas, and we are not able to give basic food for. … The needs are rising faster than we are able to respond. We need to be able to bring in more supplies, and we need safe access to reach people everywhere in Gaza, not just those who are close to the borders. We need a long-lasting ceasefire to stop the suffering.

AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Dr. Omar Abdel-Mannan, pediatric neurologist, co-founder of Gaza Medic Voices and Health Workers for Palestine, in constant touch with his colleagues in Gaza, joining us from London.

Doctor, thanks so much for being with us. The assault this weekend, especially in the central and south part, in Khan Younis, is intense, with well over a hundred Palestinians killed just in the last 24 hours. Can you talk about the desperation of people there and what you think could lead to a ceasefire, as millions around the world demanded one this weekend?

DR. OMAR ABDELMANNAN: Thank you so much for having me on the program.

So, the situation is spiraling out of control. Many of our colleagues, British doctors who have just come out of Gaza in the last few days, led by Medical Aid for Palestinians, have come out and said the scenes inside the hospitals are apocalyptic, to say the least. They describe scenes inside Al-Aqsa Hospital, which is no longer functioning and has been completely taken over and besieged by the Israeli occupation forces. They described scenes of 500 admissions in a night, many of whom were serious casualties from air raids, the majority of whom were children, children with double above-the-knee amputations of their lower limbs, children with burns down to the bone that are so horrific that they are disfigured for life, and also women and men also being killed and targeted. What we are seeing is a systematic targeting of healthcare facilities, healthcare workers, 370 at least at the last count of whom have been killed, being either killed, maimed, abducted, or even, more so, tortured when they’ve been held captive, as Dr. Ghassan Abu-Sittah mentioned on the rally in London on Saturday. These are the reports coming outside from there.

What we are seeing is not a war on children. This is a genocidal, uncontrollable massacre of Palestinians at large and en masse. The Israeli occupation forces and the Israeli government has made it very clear that they are now in a situation where they want to either exterminate Palestinians or force them and displace them out of their ancestral home after 75 years of occupation.

And what would lead to a ceasefire? Well, the simple answer is the American government. President Biden, when he comes out and says, on a national address a hundred days of the 7th of October, he feels for the hostages and the families, we all feel terrible about the situation on the 7th of October. But to completely nullify and ignore the tens of thousands — at least 24,000 — Gazans who have been killed in cold blood by an Israeli war machine is, frankly, outrageous. Frankly, the U.S. government and the U.K. government and other Western leaders are complicit in this, because they are arming the same Israeli bombs that are raining hellfire on Palestinian hospitals, Palestinian schools, Palestinian bakeries and water sanitation plans. Make no mistake: This is an attempt to completely wipe out an infrastructure and a public health system for people in Gaza.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But, Doctor, I wanted to ask you — there have been about an estimated 15,000 children born in Gaza since the assault began. Could you talk about the impact on pregnant women with the collapse of all of these medical facilities?

DR. OMAR ABDELMANNAN: So, we had an obstetrician that was with this WHO team that just came out of Al-Aqsa. What she described to us, in speaking to colleagues on the ground, is women giving birth in the shelters, in the rubble, in the streets, with no maternal — maternity care for women who are pregnant in the north and central regions of Gaza. That is at least a million people with no access to maternity care. That means women having to go through high-risk pregnancies, having to go through deliveries with no hospital or pre-hospital care, with no midwives, no doctors to help. What that has led to is many, many women dying in childbirth or after from the normal complications that often happen after a high-risk pregnancy. That includes hemorrhage, where they would not be able to have a blood transfusion because of the lack of supplies. That includes women fitting, having seizures, and no medication being given to them to stop these seizures. This is medieval-style medicine that we are seeing, and this is 100% man-made. Again, this could stop right now if there was a permanent and lasting ceasefire. And unfortunately, as I said, the U.K., the U.S. has continued to warmonger and to actually allow Israel to continue in its genocidal tactics.

And the Global South has started to mobilize. And there has been a great awakening for people who were before not aware of the situation in Palestine. But 70 years of occupation now fast-forwarded and sped up at double speed with this genocidal attacks has led to people protesting in the hundreds of thousands across London, Washington, D.C., and other major cities. And as healthcare workers, myself included, speaking on behalf of Health Workers for Palestine and Gaza Medic Voices, we do not accept this. We will not remain silent. We have escalated and will continue to do so. And as a concerned citizen of the world, what we are seeing is a lack of humanity, a lack of response from our leaders, who are impotent, frankly. And now it is the duty of citizens like us to stand up, to protest, to approach our members of Parliament, to put pressure on our governments to act. And if that doesn’t happen, then the next step, which should be happening now, is to boycott, to boycott any Israeli product that is funding a state that is destroying people and killing human beings in their homes, to apply pressure for academic sanctions, for cultural boycott, academic boycott, and sanctions on the Israeli state. And this is the next step, and this is what I’m calling for as a concerned citizen to my fellow colleagues, health workers, and general citizen professionals and nonprofessionals across the world, to start standing up and start speaking up, because we have had enough. We are sick and tired of seeing our own colleagues being killed and maimed en masse.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Doctor, could you talk about your work trying to bring children to the U.K. for medical care from Gaza and the obstacles you’ve faced?

DR. OMAR ABDELMANNAN: So, this is work that is being done by colleagues of ours. There are numerous projects that are attempting to bring children to European cities, to European hospitals, to provide care, similar to what the PCRF, the Palestinian Child Relief Society, has been doing so well to the United States previous to the 7th of October. We are in discussions with the relevant bodies to try and make this happen. Many of these children are children who have had complex injuries as a result of direct bombardment and bombing, who need years of reconstructive plastic surgical work. And these will be specific cases that we will try to help, where the need is not met in Egypt, in Jordan or in neighboring countries. But this is, you know, under — this is happening, but watch this space, essentially.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Dr. Omar Abdel-Mannan, you have Israel talking about this going on for more than a year. They are saying that Hamas has to release the hostages. Meanwhile, Hamas released a hostage video where one of the hostages is shown saying that two other hostages were killed in an Israeli strike. You have the mass protest of hostage families that took place over the weekend, demanding that it be the first priority to release the hostages. What is your response to the Israeli government, to Netanyahu and to the others in the war cabinet saying first Hamas has to release all the hostages?

DR. OMAR ABDELMANNAN: We’ve seen this narrative time and time again. At every interlude in this continued bombardment, we have seen the excuse of hostages, the excuses of human shields, the excuses of Hamas tunnels under hospitals, and many of these have been debunked by mainstream media. The Washington Post, BBC News found that many of these tunnels underneath the hospitals were, in fact, you know, previously used for as ventilation shafts. They’re not even Hamas tunnels. So, this idea of the hostages being released, as you have correctly said, we are seeing the Israelis shooting at their own people. They shot two or three hostages waving white flags, who were Israeli hostages running and fleeing from their captives, and they were shot dead at point-blank range. So, frankly, to me and to all of us who have seen the demasking of the Israeli government’s intentions, these are just purely excuses.

And unfortunately, the mainstream media, many of whom are in the U.K. and the U.S., are complicit in this. They are allowing these narratives. When I go on every TV show and I get asked the first question, “Do you condemn Hamas?” or “Do you know about the tunnels underneath the hospitals?” this is pushing that narrative forward. And frankly, investigations so far, you know, in what remains of Gaza, has shown that these — many of these stories, a majority of whom are not true, simply not true. So, that would be my response.

And again, I am not, and we are not, you know, going to be taken for a ride by the Israeli government’s narrative. We know exactly what is happening here. And the West and the U.K. and the U.S. and other governments, as I said, are complicit in continuing this narrative. And until there is a permanent ceasefire, until there is proper humanitarian aid entering through aid corridors, until there is the end of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and the continuing atrocities happening in the West Bank with settlers attacking Palestinians, then we will not stop. And we will continue, and we will mobilize, in the hundreds of thousands, in the millions, against this genocide.

AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Omar Abdel-Mannan, we want to thank you for being with us, pediatric neurologist and co-founder of Gaza Medic Voices and Health Workers for Palestine, speaking to us from London.

Next up, record-low turnout and temperatures for an Iowa caucus. Donald Trump trounces his opponents and heads to New York to deal with yet another trial for the sexual assault of E. Jean Carroll, the New York writer. Stay with us.



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