Health workers rally against Israel’s assault on Gazan colleagues

January 22, 2024
Healthcare workers' vigil in Bigge Park on January 19. Photo: Supplied

At least 340 healthcare workers have been slain, mainly in the line of duty, by Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip since the Benjamin Netanyahu government unleashed its extermination program in October.

This means there are 340 less medical personnel, protected under international humanitarian law, to take care of the more than 60,000 injured civilians, nor assist with the 180 babies being born last day.

As the South African genocide case against Israel argues, this is likely to be purposeful.

Healthcare workers and supporters gathered in Liverpool’s Bigge Park on January 19 to remember their Palestinian colleagues. They called for an immediate end to the slaughter of Gazan medics and the communities they serve.

Australia’s medical institutions have all but stayed mum on the catastrophe despite the killings, hospitals being directly hit, the bombing of ambulances in a convoy and babies left to starve to death beside incubators for which there is no electricity.

Members of Healthcare Workers for Palestine NSW have decided to speak out against war crimes against their profession in Gaza and do what they can to protect the sanctity of life.

Dire circumstances

“We are humans that seek safety. We are humans that bleed. We are humans that seek reassurance. We are humans that want access to clean water, food, healthcare and to have freedom of movement,” Palestinian social justice activist and social worker Assala Sayara told the vigil.

“However, it is not only 104 days: It is 104 days and 75 years where all basic human rights have been denied, and Israel has made the right to live freely an impossibility for Palestinians.”

The Israeli occupation forces turned their high-tech artillery towards the Al-Nasser Hospital recently. It was the “last functioning hospital in Gaza” according to journalist Bisan Owda, who reported strikes close by and who subsequently died that same evening.

Israel has attempted to justify its targeting of hospitals by saying Hamas is using them as bases, including with staged evidence.

“All of those that have contributed to this reality have blood on their hands. And we will not forgive, and we will not forget,” Sayara underscored.

Voices of resistance

Israel’s attempt to normalise attacks on civilians, children, assaults on hospitals wards full of sick and injured people, devalues humanity and has consequences.

“We saw recently a video of a doctor who had to amputate his own daughter’s leg without any anaesthetic,” Dr Safiyyah Abbas told the vigil. “It was horrific, but it was what they have come to identify as the norm because of the lack of supplies.”


Dr Safiyyah Abbas. Photo: Paul Gregoire

The paediatric registrar was one those who initiated a petition of 42,000 signatures calling on Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong to call for a ceasefire in November.

Abbas said the healthcare workers’ vigil was not only to remember “our fallen healthcare workers in Palestine, but also to call for a ceasefire”.

The global Healthcare Workers for Palestine was started by Dr Omar Abdel-Mannan in Britain: it has spread to five continents.

Abdel-Mannan told Democracy Now! that the situation in Gaza is “spiralling out of control” and “the scenes inside the hospitals are apocalyptic”.

“There are reports from Médecins Sans Frontières, the United Nations and WHO … that hospitals are being attacked. They don’t have enough healthcare workers or medical supplies,” Abbas told Green Left. “They are completely overwhelmed. They cannot give adequate care.”

Undermining morality

Palestinian writer and human rights lawyer Sara Saleh reminded the vigil they were on unceded Dharug land and “the struggle for justice begins here against ongoing genocide and colonialism here, our homelands and everywhere Indigenous people continue to resist”.


Sarah Saleh. Photo: Paul Gregoire

“You have been rallying weekly,” Saleh said. “You ... have spoken out, stayed loyal to your conscience even as you face retribution, targeted bullying and harassment from Zionists in the profession, who want to erase and stamp out that conscience.”

Close to 5000 people have signed an online petition “Protect Australian Healthcare Workers Advocating for Human Rights” by the Australian Islamic Medical Association and ANZ Doctors for Palestine, against charges of being antisemitic.

“You ... have insisted on fulfilling your mandate, preserving the sanctity of life, even when as you have been silenced from your so-called industry leaders who are complicit,” she said.

Saleh said the same forces have spent “billions of dollars operating in the shadows ... erasing Palestinian humanity” from the media via a systematic dehumanisation program propagating racist narratives about Arabs and Muslims.

The Palestinian poet said all voices are vital, as the hasbara (Israeli propaganda) has been “leading up to this exact moment … so that the world would cheer the wholesale massacre of our people”. 

“The decimation of a whole people is the real reckoning that they must face,” Saleh said. “And Zionists know that they can never reconcile that which is irreconcilable.”


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