The Israeli army’s raid on Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital in the early hours of Wednesday morning was a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government authorized an unjustifiable action that flouts the principle of democratic nations that health facilities, their workers and the patients in them must be protected from any act of war.
The argument that the hospital could be hiding Hamas infrastructure is no excuse, because even in that hypothetical case — so far, the Israeli army has shown war material found at the center, but still no trace of tunnels — international conventions require the application of the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution.
This does not appear to have been the case. For several days before the occupation, the hospital had been surrounded by Israeli troops, with hardly any food, water or electricity. In other words, it was no longer functioning as a hospital and had become a refuge for the thousands of people who fled there after the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip in response to Hamas’s savage attack on Israeli territory on October 7. According to the hospital’s director, Mohamed Abu Salmiya, some 650 patients — including 36 premature babies —, 500 medical staff and 5,000 refugees were in the facility on Friday. Meanwhile, the Israeli military was searching for tunnels in the neonatology unit, radiology and the burn unit. What they did find — though not in the hospital, but in an adjacent building — was the body of Judith Weiss, 65, a cancer patient kidnapped by Hamas in the October 7 attack.
Horror and senselessness have taken over the theater of military operations. No right to legitimate self-defense can cover a military action of this kind, and it cannot simply be added to the catalog of barbarities that the world has witnessed since the beginning of this conflict. The United Nations warned yesterday that there is an immediate possibility that the Gazan population will begin to starve to death due to Israel’s iron blockade of basic supplies, imposed more than a month ago.
What is happening is not an inevitable misfortune resulting from the dynamics of war. It is the result of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has not honored his responsibility as the representative of a democratic country with the right to legitimate self-defense and, fallaciously hiding behind that right, does not respect the minimum norms established by international law to prevent an armed confrontation from turning into an atrocity.
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