International volunteers in Gaza say the IDF has fired five ‘warning’ missiles at el-Wafa geriatric hospital in Gaza City, Gaza. The hospital, which serves as a rehabilitation center for people above the age of 60 – including, in the past, for some victims of Israel’s attacks – currently serves 39 patients over 60-years-old, 14 of which require urgent care.
According to international volunteers at the hospital, the first missiles hit the fourth floor of the hospital around 2 AM. At approximately 7 PM, a fifth missile hit the hospital. “Windows and doors were blown out, broken glass everywhere, damage to the stairs, there’s a big hole at the impact area and the wall is burnt,“ said Joe Catron, a volunteer from the USA.
Approximately an hour later, Basman Alashi, executive director of the hospital, received a phone call from someone speaking in Arabic with a clearly Israeli accent, asking if there were injuries, whether there was anyone on the top floor, and whether they were planning to evacuate the hospital. According to Alashi, that would not be possible. “El-Wafa hospital serves the patients that need medical attention 24 hours a day, including patients that can’t move, or people who need to be fed by tube,” he said to the ISM. “This hospital is the only one in Gaza specializing in the rehabilitation of people who need physical and occupational therapy. All our patients are over 60 years old, men and women. We don’t understand why the Israeli forces have fired five rockets at the hospital in the last 24 hours so far. We serve humanity,” he added. The IDF did not respond to calls for justification of the attack.
Eight international volunteers, from the US, Spain, Sweden, Venezuela, France, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, have maintained a presence in the hospital, in the hopes of preventing further missile attacks. As of this writing, there have been no more attacks on the hospital and no serious injuries. The volunteers, however, continue to take shifts, forming a protective shield for the patients. (Amira Hass has written a brief item about the matter here.)
The international activists at el-Wafa are among many volunteers who have put their bodies on the line during Israeli attacks, including some who have given their lives. Two ISM activists have been killed in Gaza by Israeli security forces acting as protective shields for Palestinian civilians during military incursions; a third, Vittorio Arrigoni, was murdered by Qaeda-affiliated Palestinians in 2011. Tom Hurndall, a UK citizen, was killed by an Israeli sergeant in 2003, who was subsequently charged with manslaughter by an Israeli military court. In 2003, Rachel Corrie was killed by an Israeli bulldozer while defending against demolitions in Rafah. On May 21 of this year, the Israeli Supreme Court heard arguments to overturn a lower court decision absolving the Israeli military of responsibility ; a decision is expected within the next year.
(I called the IDF spokesperson about the attacks earlier last night; she said she’d get back to me, but had not as of publication).