Gaza’s destroyed Al Quds Hospital – or is it? (AFP PHOTO/ MEHDI FEDOUACH)
Multiple recent media reports have charged that Israeli shelling destroyed Al Quds Hospital in Gaza City. The Associated Press, for example, reported that:
On Friday, health workers went through the smoldering wreckage of the five-story Al Quds hospital run by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, which was hit by three Israeli shells the day before.
There was nothing left to salvage inside the blackened hulk. (Jan. 16, 2009, UN says Gaza hospitals in crisis)
And the Times of London reported that:
Worst hit was the al-Quds hospital in Tel al-Hawa. Hospital staff had to remove 500 patients in the middle of the night as fire raged.
“I was sitting on the ground floor when suddenly there was a huge explosion,” said Mohammed al-Helou, an ambulance worker.
“I rushed to help carry some of the patients down to the lower floor, and I heard another explosion. That was when I realised the hospital itself was under fire.” (Jan 18, 2009, Israel declares ceasefire as it hails success of bloody Gaza onslaught)
However, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which can hardly be accused of pro-Israel sympathies, reported that services at the supposedly destroyed hospital would be “back to normal in three to five days” after the repair of damaged water pipes:
Repair work at Al-Quds Hospital, which is run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), is under way after a quick assessment jointly carried out with ICRC staff. Water pipes supplying the facility were badly damaged by the shelling. Hospital services are expected to be back to normal in three to five days. The PRCS warehouse, which was also shelled on Thursday, was reduced to ashes. Very substantial stocks of relief goods were destroyed. (Jan. 17, 2009, Gaza: Civilians continue to suffer despite hopes for imminent cease-fire)
|The real Al Quds Hospital a few years ago – the building seriously damaged in the fighting is partially visible on the far right of this picture, and contrary to press reports is not the hospital at all.|
That is, according to the ICRC report, it was a neighboring warehouse that was destroyed, not the hospital. Despite this, the AP and the Times of London and many other news sources credulously parroted false Palestinian claims that the hospital had been destroyed by Israel.
Furthermore, it is not even clear that Israeli shells set the warehouse alight. Since there was an intense battle in the area, it may well be that it was hit by Palestinian fire.
The battle near the hospital was described in a January 15 AFP report (as usual for the French agency quite critical of Israel), which stated that an Israeli advance into the area triggered “furious battles with Palestinian fighters.” The report continued:
A deafening cacophany (sic) of tank shells, missiles, artillery, helicopter gunships and automatic rifles filled the air as battles unfolded less than 300 metres (yards) from the facility beneath a thick pall of smoke.
Palestinian fighters met the advancing troops with mortar and anti-tank rockets. Tanks fired shells on the ground and planes hit the area with missiles from above.
Armed Hamas fighters dressed in blue and black uniforms, one of them carrying the green flag of his Islamist movement, ran down a street 100 metres from the hospital, firing Kalashnikov rifles.
Considering the intensity of the battle and the Palestinian use of mortars, it seems difficult to say at this point exactly whose shells hit the warehouse, or exactly what set it on fire. However, it should be noted that in recent days Palestinians have fired at least one mortar with a white-phosphorus warhead into Israel, so if the warehouse was hit by white phosphorous (which starts fires that are difficult to extinguish), it may well have been fired by Hamas.
Unfortunately this is not the first time that the international media has simply parroted false Palestinian claims intended to paint Israel as committing war crimes, while ignoring genuine Palestinian war crimes that have placed both Israeli and Palestinian civilians squarely in the line of fire.
In doing so these reporters and editors only prolong the conflict and the undeniable suffering on both sides.