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Gaza lost much more than a hospital when it lost al-Shifa

16-05-2024

GAZA CITY: Last month, the Israeli military finally withdrew from Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital after a two-week raid, leaving behind nothing but apocalyptic scenes of death and destruction.

Grounds were littered with dead bodies. Most buildings were burned and reduced to empty shells

What Gaza lost in al-Shifa was much more than its largest medical complex. Because Al-Shifa stood as much more than a hospital for the people of Gaza.

For members of the healthcare community, al-Shifa was home, it was where we trained, conducted research and learned. It was where we found the inspiration to become the best healers we could possibly be.

For our patients, it was a centre of hope.  They knew that they would receive the best care at al-Shifa, which was far better equipped than most other hospitals in the strip.

Furthermore, al-Shifa was a popular gathering place and a national landmark. Before the genocide, it was surrounded by restaurants, libraries and two universities, all within walking distance. It was truly the beating heart of Gaza City.

Israel reduced it to burned rubble, and the site of a massacre.

Al-Shifa offered a number of unique services that people could not get anywhere else in Gaza. It had the most brilliant doctors and advanced medical instruments such as dialysis machines for kidney patients and radiological equipment. Its expert medical teams could carry out rare surgical procedures. For many decades, it stood strong among sieges, shortages of materials, and many Israeli assaults and provided life-saving care to millions of Palestinians.

Al-Shifa was a hub of knowledge for medical professionals from outside Gaza. All medical teams visiting Gaza would make sure to visit al-Shifa to witness unique operations, learn about the latest developments in medicine and follow many studies being conducted there and, for us, doctors, medics and healthcare workers of Gaza, al-Shifa was a symbol of medical excellence and a source of inspiration as it was where Gaza’s best and brightest medical professionals worked and served the community.

Al-Shifa was a symbol of our hopes for the future, but also a big part of our past. Many of us had been treated there long before the start of our medical training. It was a gem that everyone in Gaza was immensely proud of. Its destruction was an indescribable loss.

“I could not hold back my tears upon witnessing the damage here,” Dr Marwan Abu Sada, a well-known surgical consultant, said following a visit to the medical complex after Israel’s assault.

“I did not shed tears for my own home being damaged, but for the destruction of the hospital, and for all the medical staff and the wounded people in Gaza,” he added.

I share his feelings of loss and devastation and I know many other healthcare workers do too.

Israel had long threatened al-Shifa, but so many of us didn’t believe, didn’t imagine destruction on the scale we eventually witnessed could happen. I cannot begin to describe the shock of seeing al-Shifa, the heart of Gaza’s healthcare system, in flames.

Israel knew that attacks on al-Shifa would violate international law and the Geneva Convention, so it lied and said there was a military “operations base” under it. After spending weeks ransacking the complex, the Israeli military failed to provide any evidence to support this claim but it did not matter, al-Shifa was destroyed, and another aspect of this ongoing genocide was justified. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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