Physicians Describe ‘Most Appalling Atrocities’ in Gaza

by Kyle Anzalone and Will Porter
Mar 20, 2024

A group of four critical-care doctors who were recently in Gaza spoke on a UN panel about the horrors they witnessed in the besieged Strip. The doctors described multiple war crimes, horrendous injuries to children, kids dying of treatable wounds, and a shortage of supplies so severe that young patients die on the floors of hospitals without anesthetic to ease their suffering.

Addressing the UN on Tuesday, four physicians from France, the US, and Britain described the dire conditions in Gaza. “I saw the most appalling atrocities, and I saw things that I never would have expected to have seen in any healthcare setting,” Dr. Nick Maynard told the panel.

Maynard said that Israeli forces were bombing Gaza indiscriminately and intentionally attacking healthcare facilities, noting that some media outlets had uncritically repeated Tel Aviv’s assertion that it was carefully targeting Hamas. “I want to just dispel some of the narratives coming from the Israelis, [and] from some of the media,” which claimed the bombs were “only targeting Hamas.”

“I can certainly bear witness, as can any medic who’s been on the ground in Gaza in recent months, [and] dispel that notion with absolute certainty,” he continued. “There is mass indiscriminate bombing killing many, many thousands of civilians and a very clear targeting of healthcare facilities and healthcare workers.”

Maynard’s first-hand account is backed by Israeli and US sources. The White House has known for several months that Tel Aviv is bombing targets in Gaza without “solid intelligence” indicating any military value. President Biden himself previously described the Israeli onslaught as “indiscriminate,” while the Tel Aviv-based +972 Magazine detailed Israel’s intentional strikes on civilian “power targets” in what it dubbed an “assassination factory.”

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Dr. Zaher Sahloul explained the toll the indiscriminate bombing has taken on the civilians in Gaza. “The number of children killed is 13,000 or so or more. Which means, one out of 100 children in Gaza has been killed and this is an astronomical number; the equivalent of that in the US would be half a million children,” he said.

“Of the 70,000 people who were injured, half of them have moderate to severe injuries. That means they will have some type of disability for the rest of their lives,” Sahloul continued before adding the numbers are likely an undercount.

Dr. Thaer Ahmad stated he was providing care to wounded Palestinians at the Nassar Hospital in Khan Younis before Israeli forces surrounded, raided, and disabled the medical center. He said aid could not enter the Strip and that doctors did not have the medicines needed to treat patients.

Extreme supply shortages have forced doctors to make “impossible decisions” at Gaza’s overwhelmed healthcare facilities, Dr. Amber Alayyan told the UN panel. Hospital officials “have to choose between whether to fully stock the operating theater, ICU, or emergency room.” She continued, “This is where you have doctors faced with horrific decisions of having to intubate and amputate children and adults without anesthetics in emergency rooms. Part of the reason for this is the lack of medications.”

At times, shortages are so severe that hospitals do not have morphine or antibiotics while doctors rewash surgical gloves.

Maynard explained the impact of the limited aid for one Palestinian girl. “One child that I’ll never forget had burned so bad you could see her facial bones. We knew there was no chance of her surviving that,” he said. “But there was no morphine to give her. So, not only was she going to die, but she would die in agony.”

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The doctor continued, “And what made it even worse was that there was nowhere for her to go and die, so she was just left on the floor of the emergency department to die. And that’s just one story; we’ve all seen multiple stories like that.”

Israel has imposed tight restrictions on aid deliveries into Gaza since October 7. While the Biden administration claims it is pressuring Tel Aviv to ease its blockade, fewer than 100 aid trucks have entered Gaza each day in recent weeks – down from 200 in January and 500 in September. The White House has refused to use its considerable leverage over Tel Aviv to persuade Israel to allow more aid into the Strip and has declined to condition future US military aid on that request.

The physicians explained that Washington’s efforts to relieve the humanitarian crisis would be ineffective, saying the real issue was distribution problems that could only be solved with an end to the fighting. Additionally, they pointed to multiple Israeli attacks on aid deliveries in Gaza, including a February 29 massacre that left more than 100 Palestinians dead.

Dr. Maynard went on to warn that an attack on Rafah would have devastating consequences for the 1.5 million people in the city. “It’ll be apocalyptic, really, the number of deaths that we’re going to see,” he said. “And of course, as we’re seeing, they’ll be told to evacuate and move somewhere safe, and there is, as we’ve heard, there is nowhere safe for them to go.”

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