Opinions

Israel is Bombing Hospitals, It’s Not that Complicated

Sana Wazwaz, staff writer

Gazan child Amira Shihab can never come near an ice cream truck again except when she’s dead. The children do not flock to the truck anymore, for it is no longer filled with treats, but corpses. After the white phosphorus and the bombs have obliterated every neighborhood, the ice cream trucks are the only place left for dead bodies to be stored. The cemeteries are being buried by rubble, and the rubble is burying a backlog of missing children who are thought to have been obliterated with the bombs. And on every rubble-clad road that Amira walks on, she doesn’t know if there’s a child suffocating beneath her; if that child was a classmate trying to call for her; but what she does likely know is what every child her age knows – she may soon be one of them. 

I don’t know anything about Amira – her age, her year in school (before the Israeli bombing campaign led to the school year’s cancellation), what she wants to be when she grows up if the rubble of a leveled house doesn’t trap her forever. The only thing I know about her is that on Oct. 20, a video circulated of her signing her name on her arm. She was doing it to not be forgotten. Gazan children have started doing it so if their little bodies are pounded by exploded bricks and the shrapnel deforms their faces, there’s still a way to remember who they are. 

How I wish I could dedicate the rest of this piece to these children – the over 3,500 Palestinians that’ve been slaughtered in three weeks by Israeli bombs and over 1,000 that are missing and likely trapped under the rubble (according to Save the Children). How I wish I could write about these children whose identities have vanished into numbers or at best, names autographed on their arms. But I know that as soon as I tell you they’re Gazan children and not Ukrainian, the apathetic excuses begin to set in, the instinct to scroll, turn the page, raise your eyebrows and insist this Middle East stuff is too complicated for anyone to ever understand. Suddenly there’s a “but Hamas,” there’s something morally and legally complex about bombing hospitals – suddenly bombing hospitals could potentially be an act of self-defense. 

No, that’s not how self-defense works and that’s not how the law works. These kids are being deliberately and illegally targeted by Israeli bombs, and while I’d like to take the time to humanize these children, let me prove it: 

Let’s hear what Israel’s own officials have to say about this so-called war (and the children they’re bombing). On Oct. 17, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly posted on X, “this is a struggle between the children of the light and the children of darkness, between the laws of humans and laws of the jungle.” Read it. Read it again. Netanyahu is evoking a biblical genocide to incite his children of light (Israelis) to obliterate a people (the Palestinians). The tweet was quickly deleted, but other officials weren’t so smart in hiding their receipts: Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant stated on Oct. 9, “we are launching a full siege of Gaza – there will be no food, no fuel, no resources – we are fighting human animals.” In other words, if civilians die, it’s not because we accidentally struck them and we didn’t mean to – it’s because we’re deliberately starving them – all of them. Is this self-defense? To call for the starvation and blackout of an entire civilian population (the human animals)? 

It’s not just the starvation that’s targeted at civilians – but the bombs are dropped indiscriminately and intentionally to decimate them. IDF spokesperson Daniel Hagari openly admits this, saying ”we are not concerned with accuracy, but destruction.” In other words, Israel isn’t concerned with whether bombs are hitting the right targets – everyone’s a target. 

As if any of these aren’t explicit enough, Israel’s former Public Diplomacy Minister (resigned Oct. 13) posted on X, “Erase all of Gaza from the face of the earth. That the Gazan monsters will fly to the Southern fence & try to enter Egyptian territory or they will die & their death will be evil.” 

The “Gazan monsters,” “the human animals,” the “children of darkness” are not dying accidentally or getting caught in a war or crossfire – the “children of light” are deliberately murdering them.

Israel has precision weapons; they have the capacity to be accurate in their targets (the thing Hagari rejects on behalf of the IDF). But instead, they have dropped over 12,000 tons of explosives on Gaza (including white phosphorus), one of the most densely populated regions on Earth – striking predominantly civilian entities – hospitals, UN schools, shelters, apartments, etc. The result is over 8,005 Palestinians killed total in three and a half weeks. According to Save the Children, the number of Gazan children killed during this siege (3,500) exceeds the annual rate of children killed in all global conflict zone countries since 2019. More children have been killed in three weeks within one strip of land the size of Philadelphia than children in 24 countries combined every year. 

This is to say nothing of the Palestinians that are alive yet not living; over 1 million are internally displaced, many of which have been displaced multiple times, many having been told to evacuate to a shelter and then getting bombed there subsequently. Not even the hospital is a sanctuary, not just because of the bombing campaigns, but because they are being denied the basic supplies to survive. Israel has only allowed 20-40 humanitarian aid trucks to enter per day, when Gaza needs at least 400 daily to live. As a result, Gazans have had a severe shortage of medical supplies, food and water. Children have had to amputate their limbs without anesthesia, elders have been called to read Quran for them during their amputations, for it is the closest thing they can get to numbing their pain. The UN has called this a “humanitarian disaster.”

I didn’t want to spend this article politicizing the death of children, but even if we insist we must – every international legal and human rights group has unanimously called this “collective punishment.” From Amnesty International, to the UN, to Human Rights Watch – all have agreed, starving an entire population can never be an act of self-defense. 

The question arises, “But what about Hamas, Sana? Doesn’t Israel have a right to defend itself against a terrorist group that’s trying to destroy them? Isn’t Hamas hiding themselves in these civilian entities, leaving Israel with no choice but to strike them?”  

There’s multiple legal problems with this claim. First, under Occupation Law, the Laws of Armed Conflict and the Fourth Geneva Convention, “self-defense” refers to sovereign states engaging in armed conflict against one another – not an occupier (which the US State Department registers Israel as) launching an armed assault against a civilian population it occupies. The occupier can’t defend itself from the people it occupies – by holding an illegal occupation (which precedes Hamas’ existence by 39 years), they are in the inherently offensive posture. 

Second, as stated earlier, Israel’s actions go well beyond the scope of responding to a militant target. They have very clearly indicated that they’re intentionally targeting and starving civilians, and seek to maximize their destruction rather than be precise. 

Thirdly, this argument is chronologically incorrect – not only does Israel’s illegal occupation precede Hamas’ existence, but Israel began planning the blockade of Gaza years before they even got elected. As Dov Weisglass, advisor to former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, famously stated in 2004, the disengagement of Gaza was a deliberate strategy to “freeze the peace process and prevent the formation of a Palestinian state.” Moreover, on numerous occasions, even when Hamas hasn’t fired a single rocket, or when Palestinians have engaged in non-violent protests, Israel has continued brutally assaulting Gaza. In 2018, when Palestinians marched peacefully along the border of Gaza in the Great March of Return, Amnesty International reported that over 10,000 Palestinians were injured with live ammunition shot by Israeli forces. In 2014, The Times of Israel itself openly reported that Israel began launching airstrikes on Gaza hours before Hamas fired a single rocket – they had not done so since 2012 by that point. 

Lastly, the claim that these civilian entities are shielding Hamas targets has never been proven, and has been in fact disproven multiple times by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. 

Hamas could disappear today and Amira would still be having to sign her name on her arm. That girl deserves a whole article filled with stories about her that the world deserves to know, but I’m sorry, Amira, that you were reduced to this. I only hope that if she is ever crushed by rubble, the destruction doesn’t fade out the name on her arm. And if it does, may this be the way we can remember.