‘EVERYONE should stand up and say this is a war crime, genocide, the ambulances were just trying to evacuate the patients,’ Al Shifa Hospital surgeon Ahmad Mokhallalati said yesterday.
The surgeon, who is currently operating on patients in Gaza City’s largest hospital ‘sometimes by the light of my mobile phone’, is also a Senior Microsurgery Fellow at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in central London.
He reported that Israel had fired missiles on a convoy of ambulances seeking to take around 100 seriously injured patients from the Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City to the Rafah Crossing into Egypt on Saturday, killing at least 15 people.
Dr Mokhallalati told Al Jazeera news: ‘What happened yesterday was that the Al-Shifa Hospital is overcrowded as we have over 2,000 patients now at the hospital. Thanks to the Egyptians they had approved that 100 patients could be evacuated to Egypt.
‘The ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) and the UN and everyone refused to arrange for the transportation of these patients as required under international law and then we found no way to get these patients moved from Shifa Hospital, from the middle of Gaza to the south of Gaza.
‘So after a few days of waiting the ministry decided that we will move this group of ambulances and we will inform everyone that these ambulances will move at this certain time from Shifa hospital through Rashid, which is the main coastal road down to the Rafah borders and they informed everyone.
‘What happened was they started moving from Shifa Hospital. In two or three minutes time they just bombed the first ambulance.
‘Then the whole group decided to go back to Shifa Hospital. When they arrived at Shifa entrance they bombed another ambulance. We got at least 15 people killed in that attack. They bombed the entrance to Shifa Hospital.’
Nebal Farskh, from the Palestine Red Crescent Society said: ‘What happened yesterday was a war crime – intentionally targeting a group of ambulances when they were trying to conduct their humanitarian roles, transporting critically injured patients to go to Rafah to get treatment in Egypt.
‘We were heading to the south to transport wounded patients. We were five ambulances, all of them from the ministry of health and one of them from the Palestine Red Crescent.
‘There can be no justification for attacks on medical missions and medical teams. This should not be acceptable. Healthcare workers should be protected according to international humanitarian law.
‘Up to this moment, the Palestine Red Crescent have lost eight ambulances out of service due to the bombardment from the Israeli occupation forces. Most importantly we have lost four colleagues who were killed when they were trying to conduct their life-saving mission, trying to save other people’s lives.
‘At least 21 colleagues were injured. This is unacceptable. It is just horrifying to see healthcare workers risking their lives. According to international humanitarian law, healthcare facilities and personnel should be protected.’
Dr Mokhallalati also reported: ‘The situation is that we have run out of the main supply of fuel. The moment I finish operating on the burns patients, which is around midnight they immediately cut the electricity of the building and they keep it only for the ICU (intensive care unit) beds.
‘It is very critical the situation we have reached. It’s something that is going to happen at some point. Imagine, around 70 ICU patients on ventilators. At some point it will be like killing these patients – the patients on ventilators, in critical care.
‘It is a very critical situation – we are running out of fuel. We have been warning for days and weeks that it is going to happen and we are very near to this moment. At least 100 people will be killed if we run out of fuel.’