Hundreds of health workers from Liverpool Hospital in Sydney’s south-west held a snap protest and vigil last Wednesday following the bombing of the al-Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City, which killed 471 Palestinians and wounded 314 others.
They observed a 10-minute silent vigil, then several nurses and doctors addressed the protest, with a Palestinian-Australian doctor from Liverpool Hospital urging the Australian Medical Association to speak out.
Among the banners the workers held up, one read WCNSF, which stands for 'wounded child, no surviving family', a common acronym in Gaza’s hospitals.
Registered nurse and midwife-in-training Jeehan Jenzarli said she felt heartbroken over the casualties.
“Hundreds of civilians were killed – amongst them were children, women, the elderly, and healthcare workers,” Ms Jenzarli told Nursing Review.
“Our main message was that hospitals are not a target.”
“Our silence was so loud, but I couldn’t help but hear the sirens, screams and the fear of the people that died.”
Since the bombing at al-Ahli Arab Hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip, there has been uncertainty about who was responsible for the blast, with both sides blaming each other.
Palestinian officials blamed an Israeli airstrike, Israel, however, said the blast was caused by a failed rocket launch by the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group.
Ms Jenzarli said she felt it was important to show solidarity and respect for the healthcare workers in Gaza.
“Doctors, nurses, paramedics, allied health workers have always been on the frontline providing care and doing their jobs under extreme circumstances,” she said.
“What crimes were they killed for? They should not have been targeted at all.”
Jo, a doctor at Liverpool Hospital and organiser of the vigil, who preferred not to give her last name, said the response to the bombing was unanimous across her workplace.
“Whether they were political or not, whether they had any understanding of this conflict or not … It struck a chord with everyone,” Jo said.
“Hospitals shouldn’t be bombed, children shouldn’t be bombed.”
“We said [with the protest] that we cannot support an occupation where hospitals are being bombed.”
Chief of the Australian Medical Association, Professor Steve Robson, said medical neutrality and the safety of civilians were important and should be respected.
"The AMA supports the World Medical Association’s call for all parties involved in the conflict in Israel and Gaza to respect the principles of medical neutrality during times of armed conflict by protecting all healthcare personnel, transportation and facilities and ensuring all doctors and other healthcare workers can fulfil their ethical duties to provide safe and impartial care to all requiring medical care."
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described the deaths as “deeply distressing”.
“Every innocent life matters – whether it is Israeli or Palestinian,” he told reporters last Wednesday.
“Australia joins with others in calling for international law to always be upheld.”
Under international humanitarian law, any combatant has a duty to take all precautions possible to avoid any acts that might risk harm to medical facilities or staff.Do you have an idea for a story?
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