Healthcare workers in Gaza honoured at Addenbrooke’s Hospital vigil
Health workers from Addenbrooke’s held a vigil for their counterparts in Gaza outside the hospital’s main entrance last night (November 17).
The situation deteriorated for the Palestinian residents of Gaza last week as Israeli forces advanced through the territory. Administrators at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City say 40 patients, including four premature babies, have died since November 11 due to power outages.
The hospital is accommodating 7,000 people, including patients, medics and other civilians seeking shelter as Israel’s forces continue to occupy the complex. The UN Secretary-General António Guterres is “deeply disturbed by the horrible situation and dramatic loss of life in several hospitals in Gaza”.
The vigil held by health workers at Cambridge’s world-renowned hospital focused their concern on colleagues in Gaza. Similar events took place in other hospitals around the UK and included a minute’s silence “in honour of all the healthcare workers that have been killed in the Gaza Strip”.
Cambridge organiser Sameh Ragheb said: “The theme was that some attendees held posters of Palestinian healthcare workers who were killed during this round with names, speciality, place of work, date of death of each martyr doctor, medic or paramedic.
“The main goal is to re-humanise Palestinian victims.”
Dr Hani Al-Astal, a gastroenterology trainee from Gaza, read out the names and roles of those already killed in the line of duty, having elected to stay with their patients as the hospital came under attack. They included emergency doctors, orthopaedic surgeons, paediatricians, junior doctors - one of whom completed his masters in King’s College London two months ago - student doctors, nurses and paramedics. Numbered among the fatalities were friends, mentors, teachers and relatives of Dr Al-Astal.
“Hospitals should be treated like places of worship, places where love and care can be transferred from doctors to patients,” Dr Al-Astal told the crowd of around 200 by the hospital’s roundabout.
Sameh then referred to the justification by the state of Israel that the Shifa hospital was targeted because it is a Hamas headquarters. Hamas is a defined as a terrorist organisation by states including the US and UK: Israel’s prime minister, Benyamin Netanyahu, has stated that the goal of the military operation in Gaza is to “eliminate Hamas” after the October 7 attacks in southern Israel left 1,400 dead. Israel’s defence forces have released videos of what it says are Hamas weapons found inside Shifa Hospital during a raid in the medical centre.
Against the noise of ambulances and other traffic on the Addenbrooke’s roundabout with Babraham Road, Sameh highlights the power of the Israeli war machine.
“It costs the US $3trillion a year to fund the killing,” he says after the minute’s silence at 7pm. “They must first stop providing the weapons which are helping to kill children.
“We are healthcare workers asking for the safety of healthcare workers - to be able to work in proper conditions with proper supplies so they can continue with their moral mission.”
The crowd chanted: “We are thousands, we are millions, we are all Palestinians.”
Sameh also spoke about the vote in the UK Parliament this week, which saw MPs reject an amendment calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in Gaza.
“This is a country where 75 per cent of the population have called for a ceasefire, who are demanding that their government do something, and the MPs are refusing and are standing with the oppressor. Everyone here objects, everybody feels the same.
“We have to convert these feelings into action. I know this vote in Parliament has upset everyone but let’s continue our journey to peace - I believe we have to keep pushing until we reach a state of Palestine.”
A spokesperson for Cambridge Stop the War urged the crowd to “organise in your workplaces, in your schools, how to push back”. She added: “These vigils are planned for 6.30pm on Friday for the next few weeks, for healthcare workers who are being slaughtered on a daily basis but do one thing for Palestine, for Gaza - just keep badgering your MP. Continue taking action after today.”
At the vote in the House of Commons on Wednesday (November 15), South Cambs’ Tory MP Anthony Browne voted against a ceasefire, while Cambridge’s Labour MP Daniel Zeichner abstained. The final count was 293 against a ceasefire to 125 for.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has been consistent about not calling for a ceasefire, pledging instead for humanitarian pauses to the fighting. Labour party leader Keir Starmer has faced mounting pressure for refusing to back a ceasefire. Sir Keir lost 10 frontbenchers who resigned to vote for the SNP motion in the Commons for a cessation of hostilities.
“In the name of humanity,” the UN says, “the Secretary-General calls for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”
Cambridge Stop The War coalition has organised a ‘human chain’ protest on Sunday (November 19) at 1pm on Parker’s Piece to “remember those killed, demand a ceasefire and demand for aid to be let into Gaza”.