I AM a midwife but before that I was a human rights volunteer in Palestine. As such, I know what it is like to be targeted by an Israeli bullet. I am raising my voice not only for the 50,000 pregnant women in Gaza, the 180 babies born every day “into hell” as Unicef puts it, but also for my beleaguered healthcare colleagues.

Late last year, I held a five-day fasting vigil outside the Scottish Parliament to join all those calling for an immediate ceasefire and specifically for the protection of healthcare workers, healthcare resources and those who rely on them.

The Israeli Army has made more than 370 attacks specifically on healthcare in Gaza in the last months, resulting in 645 people dying and another 818 being injured as a result. These attacks have affected at least 98 healthcare facilities, including 27 hospitals and more than 90 ambulances.

The Red Crescent has reported constant attacks on Al-Amal Hospital in Khan Younis, which has been under siege for more than a month. Its water desalinisation facilities have been bombed and now there is no drinkable water. Twelve staff have been arrested, including doctors, nurses and the anaesthetist needed for caesarean sections.

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Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City is trying to function with a small, exhausted staff, and no fuel. The World Health Organisation says it fears for the 130 patients and 15 staff left at the raided and damaged Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, occupied by the Israeli army and without electricity or running water.

In a briefing for the UN Security Council, Chris Lockyear, director of Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres), said last week that Israel had again targeted clearly marked staff accommodation, killing two and injuring six. He reported: “There is no health system to speak of left in Gaza. Israel’s military has dismantled hospital after hospital ... this situation is the culmination of a war Israel is waging on the entire population of the Gaza Strip — a war of collective punishment.”

Physicians for Human Rights Israel say attacks on Gaza healthcare may constitute a war crime

PHYSICIANS for Human Rights Israel last week called for an investigation into Israel’s actions as a violation of international humanitarian law, constituting a potential war crime, stating: “Israel’s assault on Gaza’s healthcare system has caused unparalleled devastation to medical infrastructure.

“Countless local hospitals and medical facilities have been left incapacitated due to military forces surrounding hospitals and restricting movement; the severe scarcity of fuel, electricity, water, and medicine due to the complete prevention of humanitarian aid entry in the early stages of the war and subsequent severe limitation; and direct attacks on medical facilities, including instances of military forces storming some of them.”

In both the hospitals and ambulances I saw only civilians

IN November, the Israeli Army posted and then deleted a statement on Twitter/X saying: “For Hamas, ambulances are used to transport its operatives and weapons to disguise them as civilians, and hospitals are in fact terrorist structures ... this turns them into legitimate military targets.”

I travelled as a human rights observer with Palestinian ambulances during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead attacks on Gaza in 2008-09 and was based at Gaza’s Al-Quds/Jerusalem Hospital. Israel made these same accusations back then.

However, in the hospitals and ambulances I saw only civilians.

I was in ambulances and the hospital round the clock and visited a range of other hospital’s healthcare facilities.

The National: Stop arming Israel or be   complicit in war crimes

I moved freely wherever I wished, with my camera, and was never obstructed or restricted by anyone. I saw only civilians, and hard working, courageous medics, whom I accompanied day after day as they worked under fire.

International medics returning from Gaza this time round say the same. It is horrifying enough that the Israeli army ignores the Geneva Convention’s protection of health workers and resources but to justify it with false statements is even worse.

The army targets the innocent, not by accident but by design. It is clear that the lives of nearly 30,000 civilians so far did not stand in the way of the Israeli government’s violent agenda of colonisation. Neither, apparently, do the Israeli hostages themselves, even those holding a white flag.

Birth in Gaza: ‘Another child delivered into hell’

OXFAM reports that starvation is being used in Gaza as a weapon of war. Hungry mothers cannot breastfeed hungry babies. Without birth care, or even clean water, mothers and babies die. The miscarriage rate is up by 300%. The UN Population Fund reported that incubators at Al-Helal Al-Emirati Hospital on Rafahhold four to five babies each, many with dead or missing parents.

“Mothers face unimaginable challenges in accessing adequate medical care, nutrition and protection before, during and after giving birth,” Unicef’s Tess Ingram stated in a recent report. “Becoming a mother should be a time for celebration. In Gaza, it’s another child delivered into hell. Humanity cannot allow this warped version of normal to persist any longer.”

The UN special rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Francesca Albanese, has said Israel appears to be in breach of the orders issued last month by the International Court of Justice requiring it to take immediate steps to protect Palestinians’ rights and cease all activities that could constitute genocide. Thousands more Palestinian civilians, mostly women and children, have been killed and injured since the ICJ ruling.

Shot while walking backwards with my hands in the air

AND yet none of this is new. I was shot on my first trip to Palestine, in 2002. At the time I was walking slowly backwards, with my hands in the air, along with a group of human rights volunteers from all over the world, including Jewish folks. The Israeli soldier who shot us was sitting in an armoured personnel carrier. Ten of us were wounded.

The Israeli army later said we were “caught in crossfire” but there was no crossfire, it was just a quiet street. We were carrying food, first aid supplies and peace banners and someone was playing the clarinet. The shooting was not a mistake, but an experiment – and a message.

The footage of the attack appeared in director Leila Sansour’s film Jeremy Hardy vs the Israeli army. It was believed to be the first time the Israeli Army had used live ammunition on international workers but it was not the last. Over the next 12 months, it shot Irish volunteer Caoimhe Butterly in the leg, killed UN worker Iain Hook and British film-maker James Miller, shot British volunteer Tom Hurndall – who spent a year in a coma before dying – and killed US volunteer Rachel Corrie with a bulldozer.

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On me, a fragmentation bullet was used, specially designed to break up on impact to cause more internal damage than a traditional bullet. The eight pieces remain lodged in my abdomen.

I didn’t talk much about it at the time. I didn’t think I should be the story. I felt the story was Palestinian civilians who lived under attacks like this every day and the Israeli peace activists who were also often wounded while trying to protect them. I could head home to safety as soon as I liked.

The night after I was shot, there was a major Israeli army incursion into the West Bank, an illegal collective punishment of the whole area after a Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel. There were wounded civilians in Palestinian refugee camps needing urgent rescue but I was in an almost empty intensive care unit because the Palestinian ambulances were fired upon by the Israeli Army when they tried to access the injured.

The Geneva Convention states that all parties to a conflict must protect the injured and those caring for them, but it has long been the Israeli Army’s policy to ignore this.What we are seeing now in Gaza is a huge increase in the violence against rescuers, healthcare workers and civilians because the international community has let Israel act in this way with impunity on a smaller scale, for decades. Many countries, including the UK, in fact profit from this by selling Israel weapons.

History will hold us to account

EARLIER this month, a Netherlands court blocked its government from making arms sales to Israel, stating: “It is undeniable that there is a clear risk the exported F-35 parts are used in serious violations of international humanitarian law.” Spain and Belgium have also suspended weapons sales to Israel. Yet the UK Government not only continues to allow similar weapons sales but quibbles over calling for the ceasefire that all the humanitarian organisations on the ground are desperate for.

Twenty-two civil and human rights organisations in Israel have issued a joint statement calling for an immediate ceasefire and the release of hostages, saying: “We call on the international community to uphold its legal obligation to restore respect for international humanitarian law and protect civilians.

“The international community must ensure that all those responsible for grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law be held accountable. These steps are vital for ensuring human rights and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”

When Israeli teenagers are brave enough to choose a prison term over serving in an army perpetuating war crimes, why can’t our politicians show similar moral courage?

History will hold us to account if we let genocide happen on our watch. And the ICJ has made it clear we may be doing just that, right now.

SHARYN Lock began regularly volunteering in Palestine after a Jewish friend introduced her to the International Solidarity Movement, founded by Israelis and Palestinians working together, to support everyday civil life and non-violent resistance to the occupation of Palestine.

During the 22 days of Israel’s Cast Lead attacks in 2008-09, she volunteered as an observer and first aider with the Red Crescent, accompanying paramedics and volunteer rescuers who were targeted by Israeli fire, with 16 killed and many more injured.

She was in Al-Quds Red Crescent Hospital when it was attacked with Israeli tank shells and white phosphorous on January 15, 2009, and helped carry civilians, including children, who were targeted by Israeli sniper fire as they were running to the hospital for shelter.

She was supported during her work by Palestinian, Israeli, and international colleagues.

Lock spoke about her 2010 book Gaza: Beneath the Bombs (Pluto Press) at the Edinburgh Book Festival. She is a contributing author to Here We Stand:Women Changing the World (Honno Press).

She qualified as a midwife in 2013, and, with others, is currently fundraising at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/MidwiferyBasics to support Gaza birthing families.