The Kamal Adwan Hospital in northern Gaza, Palestine, is named for Kamal Abdel Hafiz Adwan, a freedom fighter and leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation whom Israel killed in 1973.

The hospital, in Beit Lahiya, is one of dozens that Israel has targeted and attacked in Gaza and the West Bank of occupied Palestine, as it denies medical facilities electricity and fuel, surrounds them to prevent ambulances and wounded people accessing them, prevents the supply of medical essentials to them, shells and bombards their surrounding roads and buildings to make it difficult to access them, and as it besieges them, deploys sniper troops and drones equipped with sniper guns to shoot anyone who moves inside them.

This “genocidal policy,” as described by Palestinian surgeon Ghassan Abu Sitta, who recently left Gaza, is designed to turn injuries into amuptations and lifelong disability, and infected wounds to death for many more Palestinians than would be the case if Israel were obeying the “laws of war.” With its allies it has enacted the policy at almost every hospital north of Wadi Gaza, and is doing so now in the south. After the siege, Israeli troops round up the men inside the hospital grounds, including medical staff, and blindfold, strip, and beat them in “interrogations,” and have abducted many to undisclosed military locations including bases in the Negev (Naqab) desert near Gaza. Many survivors report that the Israelis tortured them and many have yet to return.

After the siege, at a-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and the Indonesian Hospital in Beit Lahiya, elderly or seriously wounded patients who were bedridden were found abandoned in the hospital grounds and parking lots, as soldiers had forced the doctors and nurses to “evacuate” without them. After the siege, at both hospitals, the decomposing bodies of those who had died during the isolation and attack were found by reporters and inspectors of international agencies such as the World Health Organization. At the Rantisi children’s cancer hospital, Israel forced some of the patients to evacuate with staff after bombing them with white phosphorus bombs, killing at least eight people by an airstrike on the hospital in November.

Weeks after Israel forced its patients and doctors to evacuate, news reports from the Nasr paediatric hospital in Gaza City recently circulated that showed the decomposing corpses of premature newborn babies whom the hospital staff were forced to leave behind as they needed incubators and oxygen to survive. The journalist Mohammed Baalousha found the infants’ decomposing bodies when he entered the ICU in the hospital building, one with insects crawling out of his chest; Israel shot and wounded the journalist a few days after he reported this story.

“Our evacuation from Al-Nasr Hospital was very difficult and under fire,” hospital director Mustafa al-Kahlot recalled. During the siege he had told reporters, “We are trapped in the hospital. Ambulances cannot reach us.” A nurse with Medecins sans Frontieres at the hospital had shared on social media at the time, “There was a sniper shooting, making it impossible for anyone to leave or move. Do not prevent us from taking our patients.” After the siege, he said, “Five patients remained in the intensive care unit on the oxygen machine. We left them. We only took one baby.”

At the Kamal Adwan Hospital, the Israeli siege began with artillery shelling to target the generators supplying electricity to the hospital after its withholding of fuel. The shelling temporarily cut power to the ICU on November 22, killing three children in intensive care.

By December 5, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza was warning of a “massacre” at the hospital, where the Israeli tanks and snipers that surrounded it were “shooting at anyone who moves.” Health ministry director Dr Munir al-Bursh said people’s bodies were piling up outside the building, in the grounds that also sheltered some 7,000 Palestinians who were forced out of their homes.

A week later, with the hospital still under siege, Israel shelled the maternity ward. The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that tank shelling had killed two mothers in the ward. At this point the hospital was accommodating 65 patients, including 12 children and 6 newborns, with about 3,000 Palestinians sheltering in the grounds.

The following day, the journalist Hani Mahmoud reported, “Israeli forces stormed the hospital under heavy gunfire and artillery shelling. Tanks pushed deeper at the gates and the entire facility is under heavy bombardment. There are confirmed reports from a source on the ground that some of the medical staff were shot and killed inside the hospital. Some patients with severe injuries inside the hospital have died due to the constant power outages and a severe shortage of medical supplies. The occupying army is using loudspeakers to call anyone aged above 15 to come out of the building with their hands in the air.”

The following day, December 13, the Palestinian health ministry provided the following update on Kamal Adwan. “Israeli forces are still besieging the hospital, preventing movement inside it and depriving those inside of water, food and electricity. The medical staff are unable to provide care to children in intensive care units and there is no water to prepare milk for them. We call on the United Nations and its international institutions to take urgent action... and protect the hospital.”

On December 16, Israeli armoured bulldozers entered the hospital premises. “According to witnesses, bulldozers were used to destroy a great deal of the hospital facility. The bulldozers were also used to dig out the bodies of people buried during the past nine days that the hospital was surrounded by the Israeli military. They also crushed people sheltering in the tents inside the courtyard of the hospital. Some 20 people were found dead and buried under the rubble.”

On December 17, the Palestinian health minister in Gaza, Mai al-Kaila, called for an “urgent probe” into Israel’s use of bulldozers to crush alive ailing and wounded Palestinians in the hospital yard. Urging the “international community” not to ignore the war crimes being perpetrated in Gaza, she said that 12 newborn babies on incubators remained inside the hospital without food or water.

“People were buried alive using bulldozers. Who could do that? All those who committed this crime should be brought to justice and taken to the international criminal court,” a witness told reporters.

On December 19, the health ministry said it was “surprised” by the silence of the international community on the continuing attacks by Israeli forces in the north. Its spokesperson, Dr Ashraf al-Qudra, said that “massacres” were taking place in the absence of health services due to the destruction of hospitals by the Israeli army. He said “It means the occupation insists on the genocide of the population.”

Reports from elsewhere in Gaza also describe military operations disinterring bodies in unmarked mass graves where Palestinians have been forced to bury their dead. And at a-Shifa hospital earlier, doctors stated that Israeli troops had collected a large number of the corpses buried in the grounds during the siege and removed them from the hospital grounds. These bodies were returned many days later.

After speaking with doctors at hospitals in Gaza, the Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor raised the alarm on possible organ theft by Israel from the bodies of Palestinians it had killed. The claim was reiterated on December 27 by the government media office in Gaza, which said that medical examination of dozens of bodies returned by the Israeli army “revealed that their shapes had changed significantly due to the theft of vital organs from the corpses.”

The Euro-Med Monitor stated on November 26:

“The Israeli army has been holding the bodies of dozens of Palestinians killed during its genocide in the Gaza Strip, and Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor has called for the creation of an independent international investigation into organ theft suspicions.

“The organisation has documented the Israeli army’s confiscation of dozens of dead bodies from Al-Shifa Medical Complex and the Indonesian Hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, and others from the vicinity of the so-called ‘safe corridor’ (Salah al-Din Road) designated for displaced people heading to the central and southern parts of the Strip.

“The Israeli army also dug up and confiscated the bodies from a mass grave established more than 10 days ago in one of the Al-Shifa Medical Complex’s courtyards.

“While dozens of corpses were handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which in turn transported them to the southern Gaza Strip to complete the burial process, the Israeli army is still holding the bodies of dozens of dead people.”

The organisation “cited reports from medical professionals in Gaza who quickly examined a few bodies after their release. These medical professionals found evidence of organ theft, including missing cochleas and corneas as well as other vital organs like livers, kidneys, and hearts.

“Doctors at several Gazan hospitals stated that it was impossible for them to conduct a full analytical examination of the recovered corpses given the intense air and artillery attacks and influx of wounded civilians, but they detected several signs of possible organ theft by the Israeli military.”

“Israel has a long history of holding onto the bodies of dead Palestinians, and holds the remains of at least 145 Palestinians in its morgues and approximately 255 in its ‘Numbers Cemetery’, which is near the Jordanian border and off-limits to the public, in addition to 75 missing people who have not been identified by Israel.

“Israel stores the bodies of dead Palestinians in what it refers to as ‘enemy combatant graves’, which are covert mass graves situated in particular locations such as closed military zones, where interments and burials are secretly conducted. The remains or bodies of the dead are marked only with metal plates.”

“There have been reports in recent years of the unlawful use of Palestinian corpses held by Israel, including the theft of organs and their use in Israeli university medical school labs. Israeli doctor Meira Weiss disclosed in her book Over Their Dead Bodies that organs taken from dead Palestinians were utilised in medical research at Israeli universities’ medical faculties and were transplanted into Jewish-Israeli patients’ bodies. Even more concerning are admissions made by Yehuda Hess, the former director of Israel’s Abu Kabir Institute of Forensic Medicine, about the theft of human tissues, organs, and skin from dead Palestinians over a period of time without their relatives’ knowledge or approval.

“Israel is thought to be the biggest hub for the illegal global trade in human organs, according to a 2008 investigation by the American network CNN.

“Israel is the only country that systematically holds the dead bodies of those it kills, and is classified as one of the world’s biggest hubs for the illegal trade of human organs under the pretext of ‘security deterrence’ and in total violation of international charters and agreements.

“The Fourth Geneva Convention stresses that ‘Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled. Mutilation of dead bodies is prohibited.’ …refusing to hand over the bodies of the dead so their grieving families can bury them with dignity and in accordance with their religious beliefs may also amount to collective punishment, strictly prohibited by Article 50 of the Hague Regulations and Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

“My mother, today is your birthday, and you are far from me and you are not by my side to congratulate you. Holidays are dead, mother, and I am here counting the days when I will meet you. Life has no taste without you anymore. May God have mercy on you, the joy of my heart.” (

Israel has also attacked people with disabilities sheltering inside church premises in Gaza. On December 16, an Israeli sniper shot and killed a mother and daughter on the premises of a Catholic church in Gaza.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem stated that an “Israeli sniper shot Nahida and Samar, a Christian mother and a daughter, as they walked to the Sisters’ Convent” of the church.

“One of the women was killed as she tried to carry the other to safety.

“They were shot in cold blood inside the premises of the Parish, where there are no belligerents.

“The convent is home to 54 displaced people and has been signalled as a place of worship since the start of the war.

“Seven more people were wounded in the attack.

“Three projectiles fired by an Israeli tank also struck the convent of the Sisters of Mother Teresa charity, destroying its generator and fuel supplies, and rendering a building housing 54 disabled people uninhabitable.

“The 54 disabled persons are currently displaced and without access to the respirators that some of them need to survive.”

Having nearly destroyed the medical and emergency response infrastructure in occupied Gaza, Israel also created the conditions for famine and epidemic disease that are now beginning to unfold. The Gaza City municipality back in November had stated that with Unicef and other UN agencies refusing to share their limited supply of fuel with the municipality in the north it threatened to create hazardous conditions for the besieged people of Gaza City and around, as the municipality no longer had the fuel to run its sewage pumps. The rain that later flooded several parts of Gaza, together with the decomposing bodies of Palestinians killed by bombardment and executions in the streets, accelerated the spread of disease. Last week the municipality announced it was no longer able to provide any sanitation services in Gaza City.

The World Health Organization also stated last week that cases of impetigo, meningitis, and jaundice were rampant in Gaza, and according to the Palestine health ministry, one in six people in Gaza were ill with an infectious disease. “We have been receiving about 1,500 cases of intestinal diseases every day due to food shortages. Smallpox cases have been reported in children. Diarrhoea and influenza are spreading among the displaced people in Rafah,” Marwan al-Hams, director of the Abu Youssef al-Najjar Hospital in Rafah, told reporters on December 13.

In the midst of this crisis, a report released on December 21 by experts from 17 organisations found that 9 out of 10 people in occupied Gaza are experiencing acute hunger. The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification report stated that “virtually all households are skipping meals every day. In four out of five households in the northern governorates and half the displaced households in the southern governorates, people go entire days and nights without eating. Many adults go hungry so children can eat.”

The team of experts from intergovernmental and civil society organisations used phone interviews and public data to estimate that 59% of people in the Gaza strip are suffering “emergency” or “catastrophic” levels of hunger. It says “This is the highest share of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity that the IPC initiative has ever classified for any given area or country.”

The 378,000 Palestinians suffering “catastrophic” hunger in Gaza, “characterized by households experiencing an extreme lack of food, starvation, and exhaustion of coping capacities,” compare with 128,000 people who were suffering catastrophic hunger worldwide this year. By February, the team estimates, everybody in the Gaza Strip will be facing acute hunger. It says that an immediate cessation of hostilities is necessary to avert famine and provide humanitarian aid, which for weeks has been limited to the Rafah governorate in southern Gaza by Israel’s attacks on aid convoys and routes and its restrictions on fuel.

The report observes that besides causing widespread hunger and starvation, the “escalation of hostilities has caused widespread damage to food production, including farmland and infrastructure, such as greenhouses, bakeries and warehouses. Other assets and infrastructure (healthcare facilities, water treatment plants, drinking water installations) have also been damaged or destroyed.”

Oxfam Middle East and North Africa Regional Director Sally Abi Khalil stated, “This is irrefutable proof that Israel’s attacks have decimated Gaza’s already fragile food system so catastrophically that most people are no longer able to feed themselves and their families... People are being starved in Gaza.”

“The occupation cut off the humanitarian aid route,” Gaza resident Musa Al-Dalasah told reporters. “Every house that was spared from the Israeli shelling in the central Gaza Strip now hosts dozens of displaced people. We suffer from a shortage of water and food, the absence of security, and increasing numbers of stray animals who have been separated from their families.

“Those who did not die from Israeli shelling eventually die from hunger and thirst. Diseases are spreading due to the thousands of decomposing bodies that are trapped under the rubble of destroyed homes. Civil defense teams are unable to recover the bodies due to the lack of fuel to operate the machines needed to move the concrete. Sewage covers the streets of the camps in central Gaza.”

A report released on December 20 also describes Israeli “field executions,” during the most recent communications blackout that lasted days, of civilians, particularly the elderly, in northern Gaza.

“Israeli army forces raiding the Anan family’s home in central Gaza City... The Israeli forces reportedly opened fire at multiple young men inside the house, for no apparent reason and with no resistance from the victims, and gathered multiple women in a single room before firing a number of missiles, injuring many of them.”

“13 members of the Anan family and their displaced in-laws, the Al-Ashi and Al-Sharafa families, were killed by Israeli gunfire, while other members of the families were seriously wounded and are currently in critical condition. The soldiers also kidnapped an elderly man, whose fate is still unknown.”

Of the Palestinians whom Israel abducts and later returns, Linah Alsaafin and Maram Humaid report these testimonies, from men and boys who were taken to a rice warehouse by Israeli soldiers, blindfolded and tortured for days.

“Their contempt for us was unnatural, like we were lesser beings,” says Mohammed.

“Some people didn’t return from the torture sessions,” Nader says darkly. “We would hear their screams and then nothing.”

“They have this unbelievable racism. They really hate us,” says Nader. “This isn’t about Hamas. This is about wiping us all out. This is about a genocide, signed off by Biden.”

“Every morning, every evening, and every moment, I ask myself: What photo does the world want to see in order to stop this war? More than 8,000 Palestinian children from the Gaza Strip were killed in 75 days, and many of the children have become without parents, and a large number have lost their limbs, and the largest number are displaced and displaced inside tents. In extreme cold, they die of hunger. What do you want to see to move your feelings more to save the remaining children alive???? They are just waiting to be killed!!!” — Samar Abu Elouf, Gaza, December 21

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