A war on children: Gaza doctors no longer see normal-sized babies

Mar 19, 2024
November 20, 2023, Rafah Border Crossing, Gaza, Palestinian Territory: Medics transfer a premature Palestinian baby in an incubator from Gaza to an ambulance on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossingTwenty-nine premature babies arrived in Egypt on Monday, after being evacuated from the al-Shifa hospital. Image: Alamy/ © Egyptian Ministry of Health and Population/ZUMA Press Wire

Israel’s war on Gaza is a war on children, a war on their childhood and a war on their future. Children are dying at an alarming rate from malnutrition and dehydration and doctors are no longer seeing normal-sized babies.

On the first Friday in Ramadan this year 36 members of the Tabatbi family were killed by an Israeli air strike that bombed a 4-story building in the al Nusairat refugee camp, in central Gaza. Most of the killed were women and children. Just another terrible statistic of murder by Israel with America bombs, an entire family slaughtered and family history, memories and life extinguished, just like that.

With absolute brutal impunity Israel continues to kill thousands of children in Gaza and the West bank. UNRWAs Director Philippi Lazzarini has stated that in four months more Palestinian children have been killed by the IDF than children killed in all the wars across the world in the last four years. It is hard to believe that civilised Israeli citizens are proud of that statistic, but a staggering 75% apparently think the war should continue, killing even more children. What sort of democracy is that??

They are not only bombing and killing large numbers of children but are killing their fathers, brothers and uncles and, with the support of Israeli citizens, trucks carry much needed food aid are stopped from entering Gaza, from both the south and the north. Even food aid from the World Food Program was stopped on Gaza’s northern border by the IDF. And they continue to shoot at Palestinians especially in central and northern Gaza as they desperately try to get food from small trucks in the night.

Let’s just look at how often starving people have been deliberately killed and injured by the IDF over the past five months as they desperately waited for or went to get food:

March 14    80 persons at least have been killed and around 200 wounded at the Kuwaiti Roundabout in Gaza city.

March 3    9 persons were killed in the Deir el Balah area

February 29    112 person were killed and hundreds were wounded in south west Gaza in what has been called the “Flour Massacre”

February 26    10 were killed in Gaza City

January 25    20 persons at least were killed in Gaza City

December 29    The IDF fired on an aid convoy as it returned from northern Gaza on a designated “safe” route

November 7     The ICRC convoy came under attack.

It is commendable that the Australian Government has “unpaused” aid to UNRWA and made other important contributions to the aid program for Gaza. But by allowing Israel through the IDF to continue to block food aid, to kill innocent starving civilians desperately seeking food aid, to kill yet more UNRWA staff and destroy important food and other necessary items in storage, Australia has still not done enough. Soft words such as condemning the excessive killing and calling for a ceasefire are just not enough. Australia continues to support Israel through political and moral support and through their silence on this barbarity.

As doctors and aid workers enter Gaza they repeat that every person they met including doctors and nurses are starving. The children are excessively thin and are now skin and bone. It is very hard for parents to see their children starving to death and its very abnormal and disturbing to hear children say that they want to die, they can’t live in such as situation.

Dominic Allen, a UN Population Fund Palestine representative, visiting Gaza’s Emirati Hospital’s maternity ward said that “The doctors are reporting that they no longer see normal-sized babies. “What they do see though tragically is more stillborn babies and more neonatal deaths.” Conditions in Gaza were beyond catastrophic he reported and noted the widespread hunger and emaciation among the population.
UN experts have reported Friday that children in Gaza lacking food and safe water are facing life-threatening malnutrition. “About one in every 20 children in northern Gaza is experiencing “severe wasting,” the most critical sign of malnutrition”, according to UNICEF. And Save the Children’s chief executive in the US, Janti Soeripto, described the situation in Gaza as the worst in the world for children, with conditions worsening each week.
Seeing thousands of trucks lined up to enter Gaza while inside children are dying is truly horrific and experienced international aid workers are saying that they have never in all their experience witnessed such a horrific situation. Gazan’s are dying from infections as there is not enough antibiotics and they are dying of diarrhoea related illnesses as there is not enough clean water available as Israel controls that too. Dr Fozia Alvi a Canadan who was in Gaza recently and who has worked in many crisis situations such as flooding and earthquakes said that this is the worst human catastrophe she has ever witnessed.

While a trickle of food aid is being bought in, some via Australian parachutes, neither the USA, the EU and most of the Western Nations including Australia will exert the necessary political and moral pressure on Israel to stop the killing and allow, as the UN and all aid workers request, that the land borders be opened to enable hundreds of trucks of much needed food aid in by road. There is something deeply sickening and shocking about the US stance that sends bombs to kill innocent civilians and then drops food air from the sky.

Does President Biden really think that the Arab and Muslim communities in America are going to thank him for these pathetic efforts at saving them from starvation? Australia will not be immune either as the ABC online article Mon 11 Mar 2024 noted “The Israel-Hamas war is influencing Australian politics [too] as Muslim and Arab voters question Labor’s response” to the war in Gaza. And as in the US election process taking place now the ABC noted “ . . . the idea that the electoral territory is all stitched up is deluded according to some of the hard heads in the party. Some fear the threat of a community independent is real.” And that threat is not only coming from Arab and Muslim communities but also coming from non-Arab and Non- Muslim communities disillusioned with Labors response to the horrors occurring in Gaza.

Muslim groups in NSW and Victoria have announced boycotts of politicians to attend the traditional Muslim Iftar dinners held when Muslims break their fast in the evening during their holy month of Ramadan. These communities feel that as relatives and friends are murdered and starved in Gaza and killed and imprisoned on the West Bank their loss is being ignored by all Governments as is the rise in Islamophobia that they are being subjected to.

On the West Back settlers continue to attack and burn cars and houses and kill people with absolute immunity. Over 400 people have been killed including 100 children. Certain towns and refugee camps have been targeted including Tulkarem and Nur Shams referred to as ‘Little Gaza’ due to the numbers that have been killed and the destruction of houses, infrastructure and especially roads that has taken place. And as they have done repeatedly the IDF prevent ambulance and health care workers from reaching the wounded and dying. As one mother, Abeer Saaisa, reported on the murder by deliberate neglect, of her 14 year old son Mujahed, “My son was still breathing and if they had let the ambulance through he could have been saved but seeing my son dying on the ground with my own eyes is something no mother should have to suffer.” And this week again another child was killed for throwing a firecracker. Just being a child.

Not only are children being killed and camps and towns attacked there is an exponential rise in the arrest and detention of Palestinians since October 7th. Tal Steiner, the executive director of the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), has said that “there are almost 10,000 Palestinians in Israeli custody right now, … a 200-percent increase from any normal year”. She also said that nine people had allegedly died in prisons since then. The United Nations has been warned of the crisis in Israeli prisons and there are several Israeli NGO reports of prisoner systemic abuse and torture. “We are extremely, extremely concerned, what we’re looking at is a crisis”, said Tal Steiner. Another Israeli NGO the Adalah legal centre, reported that they had documented 19 clear cases of torture within the Israeli prison system since October 7, including sexual violence. Both Israeli human rights organisations noted that the deepening problem was not getting enough attention and now required the immediate intervention of the international community.

The deliberate killing of civilians in Gaza, in particularly women and children, deliberately starving a civilian population, the deliberate killing of health workers and journalists, the catastrophic deliberate destruction of homes, school, universities, administrative offices, mosques, churches, water and sewerage infrastructure and more are all war crimes and crimes against humanity. These have been called out by the ICJ and all UN bodies have been desperately calling for action from the international community. But I have yet to hear our Prime Minister and Foreign Minister support this plea for humanity from the UN. The undermining of the UN system, the international rule of law and the blatant disregard for humanitarian law by Israel and other western nations by their complicit silence is considerably weakening the UN and all that it stands for.

As Craig Mokhiber in an article in Pearls and irritations wrote on March 14th “in a post-human-rights world, and without the promise of the protection of the law against abuses of state power, do not doubt for a moment that you may well be next.”

Gaza, Assange, and the destruction of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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