ACT International, a global humanitarian alliance of churches and agencies, says a hospital it supports in the densely-populated Shijaiya part of Gaza was reduced to rubble when the building was hit by an Israeli missile.
Geneva-based ACT International said the health care centre in the east of Gaza will no longer be able to offer services to the residents in the neighbourhood, which has been subject to constant bombardment by the Israeli army, with a high rate of casualties.
“The building was targeted by F16 fighter jets of the Israeli Air Force on Jan.10,” said ACT in a statement. “The Middle East Council of Churches, which runs the clinic, was renting its offices in the three storey building. According to the church council, the Israelis were targeting the owner of the building who was residing in the upper part” of it.
Israel’s public security minister Avi Dichter was quoted by the country’s army radio on Jan.12 as saying the top commanders of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, which rules the Gaza strip, and many of its “subordinates” have taken refuge in hospitals and schools across Gaza City. Mr. Dichter said that Shifa Hospital, Gaza City’s main medical centre had become the “de facto Hamas headquarters.”
The health care centre in Shijaiya was established in 1968 and it seeks to tend to the needs of the Shijaiya community, which is known for its high population density and where the majority of the residents are living under the poverty line. “Almost all residents in the clinic vicinity are in no state to afford any medical treatment, purchase of medicine, or doctor visits,” said the ACT statement. “The centre used to offer treatment free-of-charge and medical services to the public and was considered a valuable and very helpful clinic. The centre had concentrated its service on children and pregnant women.”
In early January, visiting Lutheran bishops had told Israel’s chief rabbis that the current conduct of Israel’s military campaign into Gaza raised issues of a “just war theory,” especially “proportionality and killing of innocents.” In their Jan.8 meeting, the bishops from the United States and Canada expressed concern about the deteriorating situation in Gaza, while rejecting all forms of violence in the conflict.
Chief Rabbis Yona Metzger and Shlomo Amar said that while they mourned the deaths in Gaza, Israeli military leaders had shown them evidence that Hamas fighters were positioned in schools and other public institutions. They said Israel’s incursion into the Gaza strip was necessary to stop rocket attacks on civilians in the southern portion of the country which have continued for eight years.
Bishop Susan C. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada urged the rabbis to “stay at the table” in discussions with other faiths over moral and ethical issues arising from the violence. She promised “our prayers for you at this very difficult time.”
At a special hearing of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on 12 January, the Roman Catholic human rights advocacy group, Franciscans International (FI), expressed its “deep concern about the recent events in Gaza and Southern Israel.” It said, “FI calls upon Israel and the Hamas leadership to immediately cease hostilities. The cease-fire is absolutely necessary in order to prevent the further targeting of the civilian population. This is true in the Southern Israeli towns attacked by rockets launched by Hamas and even more so in Gaza given the disproportionate military offensive by the Israeli Defense Force.”