Publish date6 Feb 2024 - 19:30
Story Code : 624340

Testimonies from Gaza must serve pursuit of justice, British medic says after return

Dr. James Smith, an emergency medical doctor, recently returned to the UK from Gaza with harrowing tales of his two-week stint at Al-Aqsa Hospital, flooded by wounded and sick as Israel's relentless onslaught has dragged on for nearly four months.
Testimonies from Gaza must serve pursuit of justice, British medic says after return

As massive casualty numbers continued to rise with each passing day, Smith and his team worked tirelessly alongside Palestinian healthcare workers treating patients as they witnessed scenes of unparalleled trauma and resilience.
In an interview with Anadolu, he described the grim reality of Gazan hospitals — overflowing with patients with open chest wounds, abdominal injuries, traumatic amputations, severe burns.
"What we saw there was unlike anything I have experienced as a medical doctor in my career so far,
"I was working in the emergency room most of the time, and we were seeing on a daily basis, several hundreds of patients present to the department," Smith recounted.
Al-Aqsa Hospital, though functioning, has faced immense challenges in providing adequate care through the ongoing crisis that has been dubbed a "humanitarian catastrophe."
"We were a team of two surgeons, one anesthetics nurse, one obstetrician, one pediatrician, and myself," said Smith. Together, they navigated through overwhelming patient loads, treating both traumatic injuries inflicted by military forces and non-trauma related medical issues exacerbated by the healthcare system's collapse.
The emergency room became a battleground for life and death, with hundreds of patients flooding in daily, their conditions ranging from severe trauma to critical medical emergencies.
Smith vividly recalled the sight of children and adults with devastating injuries, including traumatic amputations and deep, extensive burns, many of which were unsurvivable under any circumstances, let alone under the strain Gaza's healthcare system has been operating.
Yet through the chaos and despair, Smith says he found inspiration in the unwavering dedication of Gaza's healthcare workers. Despite personal risks and daily bombardment, these brave individuals continued to show up for work, often on empty stomachs and minimal sleep, to provide care to their communities.
"The determination of healthcare workers in the hospital to continue providing medical care, even when resources were limited, was incredibly memorable to me," reflected Smith.
Expressing his longstanding concern for the plight of Palestinians, Smith emphasized the imperative for global attention and solidarity towards the situation in Palestine.
His journey to Gaza was not just a professional duty but a deeply personal commitment to contribute, albeit in a small way, to health care in the enclave amid the crisis.
"I've always felt very passionately about what's happening in Palestine, the future of Palestine. It's an issue that I think for anyone concerned with justice and humanity. So I've followed what's happening in Palestine throughout my teenage and now adult years. I've always had an interest in in working there at some point in my career," he explained.
UNRWA a lifeline for millions of Palestinians
Smith underscored that the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, or UNRWA, serves indispensable functions as a "lifeline" for millions of Palestinians, offering vital support ranging from education for children to crucial medical services.
He stressed that despite its humanitarian aid, the agency could not substitute for a comprehensive solution to the challenges facing the Palestinian people.
Condemning any decision to suspend funding for the organization, as several countries including the US and Britain have done in recent weeks, he labeled such actions as not only "reckless but also complicit" in violence against Palestinians, especially after an order by the UN's top court to facilitate humanitarian access to Gaza.
Asked about allegations that healthcare workers and the healthcare system in Palestine have taken part in attacks on Israel, Smith dismissed these as baseless and dangerous.
Testimonies from Gaza must serve pursuit of justice
The doctor also highlighted the value of testimonies by hundreds of healthcare workers, journalists, and citizens who witnessed and documented firsthand accounts of the situation in Gaza.
He emphasized the need to utilize these testimonies effectively in pursuing justice and a peaceful resolution. "I think we owe it to our patients to see that this is another form of patient advocacy."
"There’s been a real reliance on testimony that has come from other people. And healthcare workers, actually their main focus is typically to provide care to their patients but they have also been amplifying those stories.
"They've been talking about what they've seen. So yes, I think those are really important questions that I think we need to be collectively reflecting on moving forward," he said.
"We have to ensure that what we’ve witnessed and what we've seen is used in a pursuit of justice and peaceful resolution of what's happening in Palestine," he underlined.
Israel has mounted a deadly offensive on the Gaza Strip following a Hamas attack on Oct. 7, killing at least 27,019 Palestinians and injuring 66,139, while nearly 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.
The Israeli offensive has left 85% of Gaza’s population internally displaced amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60% of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.
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