“An Act of Assassination”: Mustafa Barghouti Slams Undercover Israeli Raid on Jenin Hospital
Written by GRB on 31/01/2024
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.
Thousands of Palestinians took part in a funeral procession Tuesday in the occupied West Bank for three Palestinians killed by Israeli assassins in a shocking undercover raid on a hospital in Jenin. Surveillance footage from the Ibn Sina Hospital shows around a dozen undercover Israeli forces storming the hospital, guns raised, wearing white doctor’s coats or hospital scrubs and dressed as Muslim women wearing headscarves. One of the undercover troops carried a rifle in one arm and a folded wheelchair in the other.
The Israeli military claimed the three men it targeted were involved in planning an imminent attack and were using the hospital as a hideout, without providing evidence. Hospital officials said there was no exchange of fire and that the three men were asleep, indicating the raid was a targeted killing. One of the three men killed had been receiving treatment at the hospital since being injured in an Israeli drone attack on October 25th and was partially paralyzed.
This is Naji Nazzal, medical director at Ibn Sina Hospital.
NAJI NAZZAL: [translated] They killed the three youth — Basel and Mohammed Ghazawi and Mohammed Jalamneh — in their room while they were sleeping on their beds in the room. They were killed in cold blood with direct gunshots to the head.
AMY GOODMAN: Israeli soldiers and settlers have killed more than 380 Palestinians in the West Bank since October 7th, while more than 6,300 people have been arrested.
For more, we go to Ramallah, where we’re joined by the Palestinian physician, activist, politician Mustafa Barghouti. He serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Dr. Barghouti. If you can start off by laying out exactly what you understand about this assault on the Jenin hospital? Who was killed? Who were these undercover assassins who moved in dressed as Muslim women in headscarves, dressed as doctors and hospital staff?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, it is clear that those who assassinated the three Palestinians in the hospital are a Israeli military group, a special security group that is called the Arabists here. They usually act and dress as Palestinians in various places, and this is not the first crime they committed. But, by the way, this same group was taking photographs with the minister of internal security, the fascist, Ben-Gvir, recently, and he published that photo, and he praised them as heroes.
What they’ve done is really unacceptable and represents a very serious violation of international humanitarian law in four different issues. First of all, they dressed as doctors, as nurses, as health professionals. And they put one of them, one of the assassins, on a wheelchair and dragged him into the hospital. This way, they are endangering actually all medical personnel, because from now on nobody will be sure that he’s dealing with a doctor or somebody who’s disguising as a doctor.
Second, they penetrated the hospital in an illegal manner, very early, in the very early hours of the morning. And they have no right to enter the hospital without even notification and without any alarm. And in principle, they are not allowed to enter the hospital.
Third, they attacked a patient who was handicapped, who was paralyzed, in his bed, while he was sleeping, and shot him in the head, and shot two others who were accompanying him in the same room — three Palestinians — in an act that can only be called as an act of assassination and illegal execution of Palestinians.
In every aspect of international humanitarian law, they have violated the law. They are continuing that. They are proud about it. They’re praising themselves for doing it. And that is all happening because the world is allowing Israel to be impunitive to international law and impunitive to any law, as a matter of fact.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Dr. Barghouti, I also wanted to ask you what’s going — in terms of what’s going on in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, more than 380 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli soldiers and civilians, and supposedly there is no Israeli military activity going on in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. But could you talk about that other war, that the rest of the world is not paying any attention to?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Yes. Actually, Israel is reoccupying the whole of the West Bank. I mean, since the 7th of October, not only they’ve killed 380 people, but more than that. They are allowing settlers to wander around with guns, and these settlers are behaving as terrorists, terrorizing Palestinian people. And in addition to that, the Israeli army has arrested, since the 7th of October, 6,300 Palestinians in the West Bank, including no less than 200 children, including women. They kidnap people, and they put them in jail without trial, without any legal process, without even charges. And in addition to that, they have divided the country in 224 small islands, with 650 military checkpoints, each of which has become a point of harassment for people and a very dangerous spot, because Palestinians could be killed for no reason. And the Palestinian Authority has lost any authority. Practically, Israel took over all of the West Bank, although West Bank is not under the government of Hamas, as they claim and regard in Gaza.
But that’s not the only thing. All these violations happen, and instead of punishing Israel or blaming Israel for its violations of international law, we see many Western governments, including United States of America, punishing the Palestinians. And if you’ll allow me to speak about that, I think the whole case of UNRWA was used by Israel to distract attention from the ICJ resolution, which indicted Israel for a plausible genocide. Instead of punishing Israel, they took up this case where Israel is claiming that some workers in UNRWA have been engaging in military actions, without any proof, without investigation. And then you found 12 European countries and United States of America and Canada and Japan cut off support to the only organization that is providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, that is the only bridge to humanitarian aid in Gaza. We are subjected to collective punishment. Palestinians, who are the victims of the Israeli aggression, of the possibility of a genocide, are subjected to collective punishment by these governments, none of whom have condemned this Israeli attack on the hospital.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a clip of the U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller at a briefing on Tuesday. He was being questioned about the Israeli raid on the Jenin hospital by the Associated Press reporter Matt Lee.
MATT LEE: This operation that the Israelis launched in Jenin, the hospital today, what — do you have any comment on that? Is this something that you think is problematic, or is it something that you look at with envy, like this is some kind of great Mission: Impossible mission that we wish that we could also do?
MATTHEW MILLER: So, I’d say that we strongly urge caution whenever operations have the potential to impact civilians and civilian installations. That, of course, includes hospitals. We do recognize the very real security challenges Israel faces, and its legitimate right to defend its people and its territory from terrorism. Israel, of course, has the right to carry out operations to bring terrorists to justice, but those operations need to be conducted in full compliance with international humanitarian law.
MATT LEE: Well, do those operations include going into hospitals and murdering people in their beds, regardless of whether they’re —
MATTHEW MILLER: So —
MATT LEE: — you know, they are suspected or even known terrorists? Is that OK with you guys?
MATTHEW MILLER: So, there was a lot in the premise of that question. Obviously, they — we did know that they went into —
MATT LEE: Well, you don’t think that they went in —
MATTHEW MILLER: We — well, hold on. We —
MATT LEE: — and killed complete — people who were completely innocent, do you?
MATTHEW MILLER: So, let me say that this —
MATT LEE: Because if you did think that, then you would be condemning it, right?
MATTHEW MILLER: We certainly would, but I would say that Israel has said that these were Hamas operatives. They have said that one of them was carrying a gun at the time of the operation. So, I’m not able to speak to the facts of the operation. You’d have to pass some kind of legal judgment, know all of the facts of the operation. But as a general matter, they do have the right to carry out operations to bring terrorists to justice, but they need to be conducted in full —
MATT LEE: Including in hospitals?
MATTHEW MILLER: So, we want them to conduct their operations in compliance with international humanitarian law.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller being questioned by the AP’s Matt Lee. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, if you can respond to what he’s saying specifically here? And also, overall, then, talk about the attacks in West Bank and Gaza on the healthcare system, going right to Nasser Hospital, which is the largest hospital after Al-Shifa. It’s in southern Gaza, and it has been under siege for the last few days. But start with the spokesperson.
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: There are many things to say here, but let me start by what he said about the proper legal process. Israelis should not have entered the hospital. They should not have disguised as doctors and nurses. This is all violation of international humanitarian law. But even if they wanted, they could have arrested these three guys and charged them and give them a due legal process, instead of executing them on the spot, just on the basis of their suspicion. What is the legal here? What is the legal system here? Israel now can say about anybody that he’s a Hamas terrorist or a terrorist or anything else and then kill him in the street, and nobody will condemn that. United States of America has no right not to condemn this action.
And it is unacceptable that they continue to use double standard because they don’t want to criticize Israel. Why? Because they know that they are participating with Israel in what could be perceived or condemned as an act of genocide by supplying Israel with weapons, by supplying Israel with soldiers even. They’re supplying Israel with advisers in its terrible attacks on Gaza.
And on the other hand, Gaza — Israel has been continuously persistent in attacking all hospitals, not only in Gaza, but also in the West Bank. They have subjected Tulkarem hospitals to attacks. They’ve subjected Jenin hospitals to attacks. They’ve subjected hospitals in Nablus to attacks. And they continue to do that in Gaza, where they’re bombarding the hospitals, bombarding the hospitals, killing patients, killing doctors, killing nurses. And add to that the fact that Israel has killed in Gaza, up to now, 304 of our colleagues, medical doctors, nurses, first aid providers. In addition, they injured 300 others while they were performing their medical duties. And they have arrested 90 of these health workers, including the director of Shifa Hospital, who is subjected now to torture in Israeli concentration camp in the Negev near Be’er Sheva.
This is the exact behavior of Israel. Do we hear any condemnation from the United States of America or from the United Kingdom? No. All the condemnation, all the punishment, all the collective punishment, is directed only at one people, which are the Palestinian people. We don’t understand how could these countries that claim that they are struggling — that they claim they support human rights, they claim they support democracy, they claim they support international law, and at the same time not only they are allowing these crimes to happen against the Palestinians, but they are actually participating in them.
That’s what’s happened in Jenin, like what’s happening now in Gaza, where, by the way, 32,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, if we include the 7,000 under the rubble, and more than 65,000 people have been injured. That is more than 4% of the population of Gaza. Had this happened in the United States of America, you would be talking about 12 million people killed or injured in less than three months. Proportionally, the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza after three months is more than all Americans killed in all America’s wars since the 18th century. Is that acceptable? Is that allowable? That is the question that should be directed to Biden administration and to the American administration. How could they continue to allow Israel to be so impunitive to international law? And how could they allow this act of collective punishment against the Palestinian population when it comes to UNRWA and other health, humanitarian services?
By the way, the International Court of Justice decided there should be support to providing humanitarian supplies to Palestinians, and Israel should be responsible for that. What do we see in reality now in Gaza? I’ve been talking to our 30 medical teams working there. They say there is a decline in the amount of support that is coming, in an unprecedented manner. What they get is absolutely not enough, less than 100 trucks daily, while what they need is 1,000 trucks daily, considering the terrible situation. We have people in the north and in the center of Gaza who are calling us, saying they are starving. They have no food. They have no medical supplies. Our colleagues have to operate on people, injured people, without anesthesia. And 600,000 people, according to the World Food Programme now, 600,000 Palestinians now in Gaza are starving. What does the United States of America do about that? Do they do anything, or just protect Israel and provide protection for this Israeli aggression?
AMY GOODMAN: Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, we want to ask if you can stay with us ’til after break. We’re going to talk about that conference that took place in Israel. Almost a third of the Israeli Cabinet was there. A number of the Cabinet members addressed the conference, calling for the Israeli resettlement of Gaza. We’re talking to Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian physician, activist and politician, who serves as general secretary of the Palestinian National Initiative. We’ll also be joined by a reporter for +972 Magazine. Oren Ziv will join us from Tel Aviv. He covered the conference of thousands of Israelis. Back in 20 seconds.