As Israeli tanks and troops laid siege to the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza last week, volunteer medical worker Fikri Rofiul Haq faced the choice of evacuating to safety or staying with his patients.
Haq and fellow his Indonesian colleagues, Reza Aldilla Kurniawan and Farid Zazabil Al Ayubi, volunteers with the Jakarta-based Medical Emergency Rescue Committee (MER-C), opted to stay put until the Israeli military forced them to leave, he said.
“We were evacuated via a route used by the International Red Cross with the permission of the Israeli army. There were three evacuations on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and we were evacuated last as we prioritised the wounded who were at the Indonesian Hospital,” Haq told Al Jazeera.
Haq said that Israeli forces deliberately destroyed the Indonesian-funded hospital’s only working generator by setting it on fire and killed 12 people with indiscriminate shelling of the first, second and third floors of the building.
“Before we were evacuated, the attacks got worse and worse, hour by hour,” said Haq, who was unable to communicate for several weeks until his evacuation to Khan Younis.
“I saw it with my own eyes. There were three large tanks around 50 metres from the Indonesian Hospital building and they fired periodically at the hospital, which was devastating.
Now the Indonesian Hospital has been completely taken over by the Israeli army,” he said.
Israeli forces, who initially gave medical staff and patients just hours to leave the hospital, have been accused of reducing one of Gaza’s largest medical facilities to ruins in the days leading up to the four-day truce with Hamas, which began on Friday.
The Ministry of Health in Gaza said on Friday that Israeli fire in the final hours before the pause killed one woman and injured at least three other people.
Al Jazeera’s Osama Bin Javaid, who gained access to the facility, reported that there was a “stench of death” outside the hospital “as charred and decomposing bodies, children among them, pile up in corners”.
Sarbini Abdul Murad, the head of MER-C in Jakarta, said the attacks on the hospital were a violation of international law and that Indonesia should do more to hold Israel to account given the country’s links to the hospital, which was inaugurated in 2016 by Indonesia’s then-Vice President Jusuf Kalla after being funded with donations from Indonesian citizens and humanitarian organisations.However, Jakarta’s leverage may be limited.
Indonesia does not have diplomatic ties with Israel and the hospital is not owned by Indonesia or Indonesians since it was donated to the people of Gaza.
“The Indonesian Hospital was built with donations by Indonesian citizens and flies the Indonesian flag as a symbol of our friendship,” Sarbini told Al Jazeera.
“The most we can do at MER-C is represent the Indonesian people and encourage the Indonesian government and the foreign ministry to take this case to the International Criminal Court (ICC).”“Everyone needs to lobby the ICC, particularly the big five [the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States], and call for a permanent ceasefire,” he added.
Sarbini said there are no plans to permanently evacuate the three Indonesian volunteers from Gaza as there is still important work for them to do in terms of providing humanitarian assistance to the wounded and displaced in Khan Younis.
For now, Haq and his colleagues are taking stock of their situation as they figure out how they can best help the people of Gaza.He said they are being fed well after surviving for days on dwindling rations of food and water at the besieged Indonesian Hospital.
“Thank God, we have enough food here now and there are people selling supplies around the European Hospital in Khan Younis,” Haq said.“We are eating French fries, fried aubergines and fried peppers. Sometimes we are able to get rice with a little meat, and sometimes we eat local food like bread and hummus.”