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The Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (HAITU) salutes all the healthcare workers in Palestine for putting the lives of patients before their own personal safety. They are heroes and HAITU salutes them for their bravery. Health care workers in Gaza are fighting valiantly to provide care for injured and wounded people, in the face of genocidal attacks by Israel. As a union we are shocked and horrified by the violent bombardment of Israel against the people of Gaza. So far more than 12 000 people have been murdered by the Israel Defence Force, most of them are women and children as a relentless bombing campaign. According to Al Jazeera, more than 100 children have been killed a day in one month! Israel has violated international law by attacking refugee camps, and healthcare facilities.
More than two thirds of the hospitals in Gaza are not functioning, and the rest are on the verge of a total shutdown. There are at least 50 000 pregnant women in Gaza, and at least 350 000 people suffer from non-communicable diseases, like heart disease, diabetes cancer and other ailments. We heard horrifying reports from Dr. Mads Gilbert at Al-Shifa Hospital who details how hospital workers, and nurses, in particular were shot by Israeli snipers, whilst trying to look after newly born babies in the neo-natal unit. We have heard shocking accounts about how patients are being treated without anaesthetic because medical supplies are virtually no-existent because Israel has blocked deliveries. Israel has also turned off the water and the electricity so the incubators and the ventilators are not working. The lack of water means that people from Gaza are forced to drink untreated sea water because they are so desperate for water. The telecommunications networks have also been disrupted which makes it virtually impossible to communicate via the internet or cell phone. There is no diesel because Israel has blocked access to fuel deliveries, forcing healthcare facilities to depend on cooking oil for fuel. Women have written the names of their children on their body parts so their bodies can be identified, in case they are bombed to pieces.
A shocking report published by ReliefWeb which gives a harrowing account of the conditions at Al-Shifa hospital. It is overrun with displaced people and patients. More than 55000 people are occupying every area of the hospital including the parking lot, the corridors and the department. A healthcare worker from the hospital writes,
“We dug mass graves for a lot of unknown displaced people (who have been killed). If nobody recognises them we have to bury them in a mass grave. In this hospital we’ve buried about 200 people like this. We haven’t received any fuel. Patients will die if we don’t have fuel for the ICU, neonatal and operating theatres. We have 400 patients on dialysis here – if we don’t provide people with dialysis they will die. We are exhausted and working to the maximum, but we are not able to provide people with a good quality of care. We lack the essential drugs and medicine and anaesthetic drugs to treat patients. A lot of the wounded people have maggots in their wounds. The conditions here are disastrous.”
HAITU condemns Israel for these attacks. There is no justification for the brutality and violence against innocent civilians. Israel has also bombed emergency services vehicles, refugee camps and even churches! Even when people are warned and they try to evacuate, they are bombed. There is no safe space in Gaza because at any time, people can be murdered by the Israeli Defence Force.
HAITU supports the call for the Israeli Prime minister to be charged with war crimes. We also support economic sanctions against them. It is violation of international law to attack hospitals. HAITU is in solidarity with Palestine and its decades old struggle for freedom. We are calling for an immediate ceasefire and for humanitarian aid for all of the people affected. We experienced Apartheid in South Africa and we recognize the brutality, and this is why we defend Palestine. Israel is an Apartheid state and it must be punished for attacking innocent civilians. Palestine is totally defenceless against Israel and the Western world is turning a blind eye to the atrocities.
HAITU rejects all forms of oppression. As healthcare workers we are disturbed by the actions of Israel because we view it as the mass murder of innocent people. The description of Israel as an Apartheid state is correct because it has practiced a system of discrimination against the people of Palestine. Our profession teaches us that every life is sacred and we are also deeply saddened by the lives lost in the attack by Hamas. We believe in peace. The only way peace can be achieved is if the people of Palestine have equal rights and are able to live peacefully, and independently in the land of their birth. They have the right to be free. Palestinian people also have the right to dignity, and the right to safety and security. Their children deserve to live in a world free of war and violence. That can only happen when the Apartheid system imposed by Israel, is destroyed. Therefore, Israel is responsible for all the violence, because its racist actions have caused the conflict. This is why we stand in solidarity with all those who call for boycotts and sanctions against Israel, until all Palestinian people are free.
Issued by HAITU General Secretary, Lerato Mthunzi