A team of international activists in Gaza acted as “human shields” this afternoon to secure medications for injured and disabled Palestinians by accompanying Red Crescent ambulances into a firing zone in Gaza City. The activists are all foreign nationals, hailing from the United Kingdom, United States and Sweden.
To reach el-Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital the internationals crossed heavy Israeli military shelling from the air and border area. The medical facility was destroyed beyond use by Israeli missiles Thursday evening. The Israeli military had said weapons were being launched from nearby the hospital and said Hamas had used the facility as a “human shield.”
When the human rights defenders reached el-Wafa they found the remains of the facility was smoking from a strike earlier today. The internationals were unable to enter the burning building to retrieve medications.
Their embassies were contacted in advance to notify their home countries of their action.
Two nights ago, after being fired upon by Israeli forces Palestinian ambulances were prevented from reaching injured persons in the Shuja’iyeh neighborhood in Gaza City. While hard reliable data on the extent of water and electrical shortages has not been produced, it has been widely reported that many areas of the Gaza strip are without basic services. Medications are also in short supply.
El-Wafa hospital continues to be in communication with the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) to secure the transfer of humanitarian goods. Yet the ICRC has been unsuccessful in reaching a guarantee of protection for responders attempting to gather medical supplies for the newly re-located hospital. After waiting two days, and patients lives at risk, the internationals decided to act as a inter-positionary protection force.
The International Solidarity Movement, known in the West Bank during the years of the second Intifada for deploying groups of internationals to break Israeli curfews in order to bring humanitarian supplies to Palestinians, sent the following press release today:
Hospital staff and international activists, from the U.S., Sweden, and the UK, are on their way to recently bombed el-Wafa hospital, in an attempt to retrieve salvageable medical supplies.
Charlie Andreasson, Swedish International Solidarity Movement (ISM) activist, states, “We’ve been waiting quite some time to get clearance from the Red Cross to go back to el-Wafa. This is urgent because without medicine, the patients cannot receive proper treatment, and coordination through the Red Cross has not been possible. Therefore the hospital staff have decided to go to the hospital and we are going with them to attempt to retrieve the much needed supplies.”
Previous attempts by the Red Crescent to enter the Shajaiya neighbourhood to retrieve wounded people from this area were met with live ammunition from the Israeli army. El-Wafa hospital is just outside of Shajaiya.
On July 17th, the Israeli military fired rockets and shelled the hospital, forcing patients to be evacuated to Al Sahaba medical complex.
Basman Alashi, executive director of el-Wafa hospital told ISM, “Due to the emergency evacuation we were forced to move quickly, and had to leave behind important medication, supplies are now running low.”
The embassies of the international activists have been informed by the ISM, and asked to do everything in their power to fulfill their responsibility to ensure that Israel respects international law and does not target this delegation of Palestinian and international human rights defenders.