By Abby Zimet
Baby injured in Israeli airstrikes is taken to Gaza’s Suheda al-Aqsa Hospital
Photo by Ashraf Amra/Anadolu via Getty Images
Words still fail, horrors still unfurl. Last night, Israeli airstrikes killed over 400 Palestinians. The dead now total over 5,000, likely many more; almost half are children. And unless fuel and other supplies can soon get into Gaza, of 130 premature babies in six neo-natal units, “All will die.” The victims in Gaza are doctors, students, journalists, 26 members of one family aged 75 to two, many, many children, now perhaps many babies. None of them are Hamas.
Still, the grotesque body count soars and widespread calls for a ceasefire go ignored, in part thanks to a mainstream media that has long dehumanized Palestinians: “Our grief is negligible; our rage is unwarranted. Our death is so quotidian journalists report it as though they’re reporting the weather. Cloudy skies, light showers, 3,000 Palestinians dead.” That “empathy gap” has facilitated the erasure of decades of brutal violence, dispossession, apartheid, atrocity, blockade and use of the word “war” to describe a desperate David-and-Goliath struggle for survival that’s inevitably reduced to the righteous, Islamophobic query, “But what about Hamas?” Yes, Hamas is a terror organization. So is the Israeli government. An estimated contingent of 2,500 Hamas fighters committed terrible crimes against innocent Israelis. Now a blood-seeking, full-throated imperial Israeli military – urging its famously “moral” troops on Palestinian “animals” to, “Erase them, their families, mothers and children” – is committing terrible crimes against 2 million innocent Gazans. They call it justice. Experts call it a “textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.”
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With it has descended an ungodly chaos – no water, food, fuel, medicine, over a million homeless and trapped – that aid workers call “Catastrophic, catastrophic, catastrophic” Still, says Israeli U.K ambassador Tzipi Hotovely, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” The former daughter of Soviet immigrants and “ugly, extremist face of Israel,” she is a former Settlements Minister with “an appalling record of racist and inflammatory behavior” who denies the existence of Palestinian people and the Nakba, calls human rights activists “war criminals,” led a far-right protest where calls were made to “burn” Palestinian villages, and wants to annex the entire West Bank. Asked about civilian deaths in Gaza, she claimed Israel is working to “make sure all Palestinian civilians will be safe” while insisting, “Hamas needs to pay the price,” even though children are instead. “Israel is in charge of the safety of Israelis, Hamas is in charge of the safety of Palestinians,” she said before coolly, approvingly citing Britain’s World War ll attacks on German cities that killed over 600,000 civilians: “Was it worth it in order to defeat Nazi Germany? And the answer was yes.”
Thus do the Israel-approved killings go on: Doctors, poets, students, whole families, all with names and stories, none of them Hamas. Among those killed was Palestine’s top high school student – she earned a 99.6% average – and a 19-year-old medical student, alongside her mother, sister, brother; days earlier, she wrote, “I have a life I have not yet fully lived.” Also Dr. Medhat Saidam and 30 relatives after he returned home from his hospital shift; 26 members of the al-’Azayzeh family; four Awni al-Dous brothers, ages 17 to 10; 14 members of the Shabat family, including 7 children; ten members of the Shamallakh family, the youngest two months old; 11 children from the al-Zaanin family: Amr, 4, Khaled, 7, Obaida, 9, Hassan, 12, Momen 12, Noor, 9, Zaina, 7, Mays, 5, Hala, 1, Salma, 5, Balsam, 3; doctors Raafat Abofoul and Mohammad Dabbour; two-month-old Muhammad Khayyat, who doctors tried to save; three siblings and two cousins of the al-Qatnani family, ages 16 to 2; a 39-year-old art teacher and her two young sons; and along with ten more members of the al-Baba family, Wafaa al-Baba and her month-old-quadruplets, just born to her and her husband Fadi, the new family’s only survivor, after 15 years of trying to conceive.
Despite Tzipi Hotovely’s savage disingenuousness, Gaza’s survivors face an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. Israel has choked off food, water, fuel, medical supplies; senselessly ordered a million people to evacuate; razed neighborhoods, schools, mosques, with so many casualties anguished parents will beg journalists – see below – to take their wounded infants to safety. And at packed hospitals, overwhelmed health workers try desperately to staunch the bleeding. At least seven of 30 hospitals have shut down due to bombing damage and lack of power or water; at those still functioning, Palestinian doctors have had to cancel all scheduled operations, ration dwindling supplies, tend to patients on floors or in corridors, and operate without anaesthetic. Now doctors and UN teams say they will run out of fuel within two or three days, at which point life-saving equipment for thousands of wounded Gazans, along with any effort at humanitarian aid, will shut down. To date, Israel has allowed in just three small convoys of about 35 trucks; none carried fuel and they’re a 4% “drop in the ocean” of the 100 to 500 trucks a day needed to meet Gaza’s need.
Yet still, astonishingly, new life keeps coming as bombs rain down. In the al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia Refugee Camp, up to 50 babies are born most days. Across Gaza, at least 50,000 pregnant women already lack access to medical care, but up to 5,500 are due in the next month. Amid the war’s trauma, many are delivering early; given the blockade, some are mixing baby formula with contaminated water, leading to more sick babies in need of care. Now, doctors say at least 130 premature babies who have clung to life in incubators in six neonatal intensive care units are “at grave risk”; if hospitals run out of electricity and generators shut down, the wards will turn into morgues within days, or even hours. “How can this be justified?” asks Humza Yousef, First Minister of Scotland. “What crime have these babies committed?” At Al Shifa’s neonatal unit, Dr. Nasser Bulbul watches a tiny, eight-day-old boy fidget next to his ventilator; his mother was transferred there “taking her last breath.” The baby is underdeveloped but stable, says Bulbul. If he lives, it’s unclear who will take care of him; all 11 members of his family were killed, and he is the only survivor.
Palestinian medic takes a dead baby pulled out of destroyed buildings in Rafah.Photo by Hatem Ali/AP
Palestinians in Gaza’s Al-Nasir Hospital attend baby injured in Israeli airstrikes Photo by Abed Zagout/Anadolu via Getty Image
Pre-mature babies in neo-natal unit of Gaza hospital quickly running out of fuel.Photo by UK-based Medical Aid For Palestinians
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