Defend Truth


Israel’s systematic onslaught against the hospitals of Gaza is a war crime


Dr Aayesha J Soni is a specialist neurologist and medical volunteer with the Gift of the Givers Foundation. She was named one of the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans 2017 and News24 100 Future Young Mandelas 2018.

The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair. Decisive international action is needed now to stop this manic behaviour being carried out by Israel and to halt the mass-scale humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing live.

Bisan Owda, a 25-year-old filmmaker from Palestine, has taken it upon herself to livestream videos demonstrating the situation on the ground in Gaza. Her social media page, with a growing following of 2.1 million followers, is a testament to the devastation Israel has been meting out for the past month. Void of influence from Zionist propaganda and mainstream media outlets with agendas fueled by political motives, her stories are real, raw, shattering and heartbreaking. 

On 26 October, Bisan took us on a virtual tour of Al-Shifa hospital, the largest medical complex in Gaza. She described how many civilians from the North had evacuated to Al-Shifa seeking refuge, with the estimated numbers reaching the thousands. We watched the corridors strewn with people, some injured and awaiting medical care from the already overwhelmed hospital staff with limited supplies. These people had made Al-Shifa hospital their home in the hopes of safety from Israel’s relentless bombing of the civilian population. 

Al Shifa hospital is lit up in Gaza City 24 October 2023. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED SABER

These were scenes we witnessed just two weeks ago and yet, over the past weekend, we have watched in absolute horror as Israel has directly bombed, besieged, and attacked patients and healthcare workers working there. 

On 12 November, the regional directors of UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund), Unicef and WHO released a joint statement collectively calling for urgent international action to end the ongoing attacks on hospitals in Gaza

“We are horrified at the latest reports of attacks on and in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Rantisi Naser Paediatric Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital, and others in Gaza city and northern Gaza, killing many, including children. Over the past 36 days, WHO has recorded at least 250 attacks on health care in Gaza, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers on duty. Attacks on medical facilities and civilians are unacceptable and are a violation of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and Conventions.” 

Palestinian people who fled their homes gather at the Al-Quds hospital following Israeli airstrikes on Tel al-Hawa neighborhood in Gaza City, 31 October 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / MOHAMMED SABER)

This action by Israel cannot be condoned and the right to seek medical assistance, especially in times of crisis, should never be denied. 

Further, the WHO for Occupied Palestinian Territories office has confirmed that more than half of the hospitals in the Gaza Strip are closed. Those still functioning are under massive strain and can only provide very limited emergency services, lifesaving surgery and intensive care services. Shortages of water, food, and fuel are also threatening the well-being of thousands of displaced people, including women and children, who are sheltering in hospitals and their surroundings. 

Read more in the Daily Maverick: ‘Health system is on its knees’ — WHO condemns attacks on hospitals in Gaza 

The scale of the ongoing humanitarian crisis has also been confirmed by multiple statements released by the Doctors Without Borders humanitarian group, who have multiple team members currently present in Gaza. 

Read: End the horror in Gaza – medico international 

On Friday, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization, addressed the UN Security Council regarding the healthcare situation unfolding in Gaza. “Half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and 2/3 of its primary health care centres are not functioning at all. The health system is on its knees”, said Dr Ghebreyesus. Last week, WHO documented 5 attacks on 5 hospitals in one day in Gaza. In the past 48 hours alone, 4 hospitals have been put out of action. 

Today, the Palestine Red Crescent Society says Al- Quds Hospital, the second largest medical complex in Gaza, has ceased operations because of a fuel shortage, as Israeli forces continue to bomb the besieged territory.

Israel continues to justify its manic behaviour with false claims and propaganda. It falsely states that Hamas operates from under Al-Shifa hospital, using the medical complex to launch rockets against the occupying military force. Despite the fact that this has never been substantiated with irrefutable evidence, Hamas themselves emphatically deny the claim. 

In an official statement yesterday, Hamas denied it refused 300 litres of fuel from Israel intended for medical use at the besieged Al-Shifa Hospital. “The offer belittles the pain and suffering of the patients who are trapped inside without water, food, or electricity. Hamas is not associated with Al-Shifa Hospital management, nor is [Hamas] part of its decision-making structures”, it said. “[The hospital] is completely subject to the authority of the Palestinian health ministry.”

Dr Mads Gilbert, a reputable Norwegian doctor who has worked at Al-Shifa hospital for the past 16 years, reaffirms this. “Israel has a well-documented history of targeting ambulances, hospitals, primary healthcare facilities, and health professionals in various incidents”. 

He emphasised that he had never encountered any indication of a “military command centre” at Al-Shifa, pointing out that Israel has failed to produce evidence of such a centre, despite “a sophisticated intelligence system” capable of ground scanning and comprehensive population data.  

The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation, and despair. Decisive international action is needed now to stop this manic behaviour being carried out by Israel and to halt the mass-scale humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing live. Zionist Israel is guilty of methodically terrorising Palestinians, and we are all witness to the absolute wreckage. 

There cannot be watered-down statements of condemnation of both sides of the war — this is not a war. This is a systematic onslaught against a population that has been occupied and dehumanised for 75 years. Gaza 2023 will go down in history as one of the most horrific episodes of calculated cruelty in modern history because the genocidal violence unleashed has been so overwhelmingly supported by liberal Western states and their leaders, and because its evidence was so immediate, so obvious and so live-streamed to the world. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Ben Harper says:

    No its not. Using hospitals as military strongholds and combat headquarters is though, using innocent civilians as human shields even more so

  • STEPHEN Marks says:

    The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into shields for military facilities used to attack a neighbouring country. There, fixed it for you.

    • dexter m says:

      The hospital requested international observers to come inspect to confirm or deny . Israel has refused to allow them to do so. Remember ” Weapons of mass destruction ” The solid evidence that US produced to go to war , they still cannot find it. Also the evidence that they showed on hospital having names written of hamas fighters….is the calendar in arabic. IDF has a track record of lying….before finally admitting a few years later ,,,,like the killing of Aljeezera journalist.

  • Denise Smit says:

    If you take what Hamas says as truth (Hamas who slaughtered 1400 people in a few hours and took 240 hostages – still hostages with no word about them} , and say you need undisputed proof from the Idf, your article is worth nothing. You know that Hamas is in charge of Gaza and not the Palestinian authority. Denise Smit

    • Mohsin Wadee says:

      And Israel has killed 14000 Palestinians in Gaza, a third of them children. So take your crocodile tears elsewhere Denise Smit, cos they’re only making your face wet, that’s all.

  • Sydney Kaye says:

    “The world cannit remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, destruction and despair”.
    Yes, but wouldn’t you say that the transformation commenced with the actions of Hamas, who have used the basements to store arms, use as rocket launch sites and command centres, probably hold hostages and wilfully put the patients in danger. It is all very well describing the dreadful scenes there but predictably you blame Israel, which has no choice but to dig out its murdering enemies, instead of those who actually created this situation.

  • dexter m says:

    Can already see Birthright graduates around the world taking exception to your article and running with Israeli line to cover the war crimes . the current actions of Israel is harming itself and not in its interests long term .Getting the hostages back ( which IDF seems to have already written off ” Hannibal Directive ” ) and getting rid of Hamas is legal .But current actions to punish the population and push them out of Gaza the Israeli plan from day one is not.

    • Matthew Hall says:

      Hamas is the elected political leadership of Gaza. Their attacks of October 7th constituted a declaration of war by one nation on another. At this stage it is disingenuous to consider Hamas and Gaza as separate belligerents. To attempt to do so is like a little boy hitting his big brother and then hiding among his mother’s skirts.

      • John P says:

        Hamas were elected in 2006, there has not been another election since then. At that time Hamas won 44% of the votes with the next party getting 42%, due to the way that system works they were the largest party and therefore the winner.

      • Nas Hodja says:

        Israel committed acts of war almost every week against the people of Gaza before Oct 7 by bombing homes and apartment blocks. Everything that Hamas has done is a reaction. Not an action, a reaction against the most egregious brutality and war crimes which have been committed against the Palestinian people for the past 75 years and more. It started with the ethnic cleansing of more than 700000 Palestinians from the Palestine which is today called Israel.

  • John P says:

    Ben Harper, Stephen Marks and Denise Smit seem to find it easy to parrot the Netanyahu propaganda line without offering a shred of evidence to support their comments. It seems that if enough people state that the moon is made of blue cheese then it must be so even if all the evidence proves it is not.

    Hamas are a terrorist organisation and have committed atrocities against innocent people. Israel’s completely over the top response is committing atrocities against innocent people. Neither side is justifiable.

    • Ben Harper says:

      None so blind as those who will not see. The facts are there and widely and freely available or are you one that is more apt to believe the declared terrorist organisations statements… like accusing Israel of an air strike on a hospital when in fact it was (proven over and over again) their own rocket that failed and fell in the hospital car park? I think the latter is true

      • John P says:

        Please provide links to these “easily available” facts. It is not enough to use them as facts and just state that the proof is out there somewhere.

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          John, if in fact you really want proof (one wonders what else you “deny”, insinuation purposely intended?) feel free to go look at Bloomberg (on this very Daily Maverick website), France 24, CNN, AP News, Reuters, Yahoo News, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Times of Israel, etc. etc. Or do you only believe Hamas sources??

        • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

          John P – please spend some time verifying a few credible sources like Bloomberg (on this very Daily Maverick website), France 24, CNN, AP News, Reuters, Yahoo News, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Times of Israel, and the myriad of others that are not Hamas.

          • John P says:

            I do not believe unsubstantiated statements from anyone include Hamas. It is easy to throw the names of publications around and imply the “facts” you wish to prove are somewhere in there. It is rather up to those rehashing Netanyahu accusations to show where their information comes from.

          • Ben Harper says:

            Don’t worry M, you’ll get more joy conversing with a plank than this one

          • Rod H MacLeod says:

            Check out “” if you want to see some evidence, John.

  • Alan Paterson says:

    If Dr Soni had prefixed this piece by condemning the initial barbaric assault on civilians with accompanying rape of young women, murder and hostage taking then I may have been somewhat more sympathetic. As it is she is yet another unquestioning Hamas supporter and this simply disgusts me.

    • John P says:

      Nowhere in this opinion piece does Dr Soni show support for Hamas, your assumption that she supports Hamas is simply ridiculous. Her piece seems to be nothing more than that of a dedicated doctor expressing her horror at the death and destruction taking place now.

      • John Plaskett says:

        Her support is implied by ignoring what is now proven that a main stronghold and control centre of Hamas is in the basement of the Al-Shifa hospital..I’m sure the IDF will attempt to take them out with as little collateral damage to innocent people as possible

        • John P says:

          If you can show the proof re Hamas and Al-Shifa please provide this essential information. We may otherwise feel that your support is entirely behind the IDF with no real justification.

          • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

            Bloomberg (on this very Daily Maverick website), France 24, CNN, AP News, Reuters, Yahoo News, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, Times of Israel, etc. etc.

          • Rod H MacLeod says:

            Go see “” John.

  • Richard Robinson says:

    Perhaps the good Dr Soni should brush up on her knowledge of the Geneva Convention on War, and specifically the rules around the use of hospitals, etc. as military command centres and strongpoints…

  • Boaz Keren Gil says:

    According to Article 57 of the Geneva Convention, using a hospital for military purposes makes the hospital a valid target.
    You write a whole article about international law, and not even -ONCE- you quote the actual law. Just your opinions. Do you know anything about international law and the Geneva Convention?

  • Boaz Keren Gil says:

    According to Article 13 of the Geneva Convention, using a hospital for military purposes makes the hospital a valid target. You write a whole article about international law, and not even -ONCE- you quote the actual law. Just your opinions. Do you know anything about international law and the Geneva Convention?

    Here it is:

    Article 13 – Discontinuance of protection of civilian medical units
    1. The protection to which civilian medical units are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, cease only after a warning has been given setting, whenever appropriate, a reasonable time-limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.

    2. The following shall not be considered as acts harmful to the enemy:

    (a) that the personnel of the unit are equipped with light individual weapons for their own defence or for that of the wounded and sick in their charge;

    (b) that the unit is guarded by a picket or by sentries or by an escort;

    (c) that small arms and ammunition taken from the wounded and sick, and not yet handed to the proper service, are found in the units;

    (d) that members of the armed forces or other combatants are in the unit for medical reasons.

    Where is your evidence that Israel failed to produce such evidence? Because it did. There are videos of weapons and people carrying rockets inside the hospital. Hamas denies it? Who would’ve thought?

    • John P says:

      Leaving aside the quoted Article 13 passage which is fact we once again have an insistence that Hamas are using the hospital as a base. Where is this evidence? Provide some links to irrefutable evidence instead of the usual vague accusations.

  • jcdville stormers says:

    All Hamas leadership should be tried by an internstional court for crimes agains humanity

    • Caroline de Braganza says:

      So should Bibi and his gang.

    • John P says:

      100% agreed, along with Netanyahu and most of the current leadership of Israel. And that is just for this conflict, let us not forget Putin and cronies, the leadership of Iran, Sudan, various leaders of the US and the list goes on. Whilst we humans love to consider ourselves civilized and intelligent we in general seem incapable of learning from the horrors of war.

  • Stephen Leggatt says:

    The tragedies in Gaza are sad for humanity in general and more so for the innocent families caught in the conflict on both sides. Maybe both armies should go out into the open somewhere and slaughter each other to their mutual satisfaction, but sadly that never happens in war. War always involves civilians.

    Wars are full of human tragedy, caused by humans despising those fellow humans that are different from them and also about power, not about soldiers. Lenin killed around 8 million and Hitler some 12 million, including some 6 million Jews, based on race, ethnicity and “religion”.

    The problem with this lady’s article -passionate as she rightly derserves to be – is firstly that inflamed rhetoric (on both sides and from any side, doesn’t really help) – she calls it a “war crime” but simultaneously says “this is not a war” – which is her stance – war or not? It seems Hamas and Israel have each declared war on the other.

    Secondly she starts with the Israeli response – which some will argue is over the top and others will argue appropriate or not enough. Ceratinly when children die, deep questions are appropriate.

    Thirdly, US security intelligence in the very same press on the very same day supports the view that hospitals are used as shields and military bases by Hamas. It would be helpful if they come forward with the proof.

    However, the start of this latest tragedy was not the Israeli response but allegedly was the Hamas invasion of Israel involving the alleged slaughter, rape and murder of some 1,200 civilians. Go back further if you wish to 2007 and the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the Hamas election after that Middle East war, or even the 2nd world war and the creation of the Israeli state, or all the way back to the Bible and the Jews returning to the “Holy” Land from Egypt; pick your origin for this war.

    She is silent on the latest initial Hamas attack in late 2023 and how could she realistically expect no response from Israel at all – not that I am defending them either.

    It has taken the Irish nation
    around 400 years to realise that killing each other for “religion” – largely Catholic vs Protestant – doesn’t really work. It has taken the Christian and Moslem world no less than 1,000 years (ongoing from the “Crusades” and counting) to fight over “religion” also – “my God/my Allah is the only God”. Pol Pot killed 2 to 3 million in Cambodia and the list (Biafra, Ukraine, Central Africa) around the planet is much longer. So the best hope for Israel and Hamas is probably another few hundred years.

    Isn’t’ “religion” – all types and variants – coupled to ethnicity the real source of conflict in the world – and a curse rather than an asset to the planet? Isn’t religion just an outdated employment scheme for radical believers and fanatics on both sides who are really interested in power and just use God as a convenient excuse to get it.

  • Cornay Bester says:

    There were 1.2 million Palestinians in 1948. Today there are over 7 million. If Israel is genocidal she’s a total failure.

  • Samuel Ginsberg says:

    The same tired old narrative. There’s plenty of video evidence that Hamas uses hospitals and schools to base their military installations. That makes them a legitimate target and is, in fact, considered a war crime in its own right.

    • John P says:

      Yet again the same old story brought out on parade without a single shred of evidence. Please quote your sources so that those who wish to can verify your “tired old narrative”

      • Ben Harper says:

        ow about YOU prove the evidence presented is fake? You can repeat the same line over and over again yet you yourself offer nothing, in fact you’ve stated you don’t believe anything

        • John P says:

          Ben no evidence was presented, only hearsay. I stated I don’t believe unsubstantiated information, that does not equate to don’t believe anything.

  • Roger Sheppard says:

    Using hospitals and schools as human shields is a war crime…of note!

  • Cecilia Wedgwood says:

    Frank Barat interviewing Dr Nurit Peled is worth a listen – it is on UTube. Also Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim , Norman Finkelstein , Noam Chomsky – all professors. Interviews aavailable on UTube.

  • Agf Agf says:

    The citizens of Gaza are complicit. They knew exactly what was going on under their schools, hospitals and mosques. The doctors and hospital administrators must have seen, heard, felt all the tunneling taking place under their facilities. The Imans knew their mosques were being used. If Hamas really care for the people of Gaza they should surrender and hand over the hostages.

    • Marius Laker says:

      Agree. People speak asif Hamas is seperate to the rest of the people in Gaza; but are they not the sons, husbands, brothers, fathers of families living in Gaza ie they have the full support of the Gaza people. And where do the wounded Gaza fighters go? Are they not in those same hospitals, mixed with the other people of Gaza?

    • John P says:

      Once again hearsay, assumption and opinion presented as fact

  • Mordechai Yitzchak says:

    “Void of influence from Zionist propaganda and mainstream media outlets with agendas fueled by political motives, her stories are real, raw, shattering and heartbreaking.”

    Live feed of human shields …

  • Nas Hodja says:

    It is irrelevant now who bombed the Al-Ahli hospital, since Israel has bombed and attacked almost every other hospital since then. I guess there is a pressing need to remove one war crime out of another dozen.

  • Nas Hodja says:

    This Human Shields line keeps coming up as an excuse for slaughtering Palestinian civilians. The city is the only thing worth defending in Gaza, and the only place for a resistance movement to hide. It is the only home they have as well. So people expect them to pitch their tents out in the open and march in formation in the desert?

    Ukraine has also defended some of its cities fighting block by block, with a residual civilian population, and nobody called them names. This happened during World War 2 as well.

    When the US led coalition was fighting ISIS in Iraq, they had to cities like Mosul and Fallujah block by block. They did not bomb the cities to complete rubble with the civilian population inside. The true cowards are the IDF who sit back and unleash tons of bombs on a captive civilian population, because they can. War crimes.

    Gaze is a small place and criss-crossed with tunnels, which they had to do to avoid the air power. There almost certainly are tunnels under the Al-Shifa hospital to facilitate movement. No massive command and control centre has been found. Every Israeli hospital has armed security, so why the shock and horror if a few guns have been found? Even CNN said those pictures seem to have been staged.

    Half the stuff the comes out of the IDF is lies, and another quarter fabricated. Typical is their messaging when they murdered journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. The western press still laps it up without verification.

  • Andre Swart says:

    Something fishy here!

    Trying to fix the ‘symptoms’ of this war and not the cause?

    Please tell me.

    What kind of warrior would start a WAR and then hide among civilians when the hell break loose?

    Isn’t the bigger atrocity those terrorists that abuse their own civilians to shield themselves from the wrath of war?

    Why don’t they choose a battlefield seperated from women and children and fight the Israeli soldiers there, like real warriors?

    There’s another aspect to this war dilemma!

    Are those civilians (women, children and sick people in hospitals) really innocent or are they all undercover terrorists?

    They have been living with Hamas for decades , supported Hamas, associated with Hamas … why should they be exonerated from the consequences of war?

    It’s a war crime to employ civilians as undercover terrorists and Hamas must account for this deceptive war crime of theirs.

    N0body that has associated with Hamas is ‘innocent’ in this war … irrespective of gender or age.

    Come on Ayeesha Soni, your choice of ‘ innocent victims’ is suspect, it speaks of selective morality and undermines your credibility as a journalist.

    • Nas Hodja says:

      I have no doubt that those that have to live under brutal Israeli subjugation and deprivation in their own land feel they have the moral right of war. Just as the Ukrainians have the moral right of war to free occupied Ukraine.

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