The people of Palestine are in dire need of medical support and food amid fears of “more bloodshed”.
To this end, a delegation of Hamas members of the Palestinian Legislative Council met with the ANC caucus in Parliament on Friday.
At a press briefing, ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said the delegation had asked for medical assistance, as many people are wounded in attacks by the Israeli army.
“They also asked us to help in any way we can with food,” said Mthembu.
“Because of the blockade, there is nothing coming in.”
Head of the delegation Mohmoud al-Zahar said they were very pleased to be in South Africa, where they had “found a great welcome and understanding about suffering”, and to be received by the ANC.
No discussion of ‘political interests’
“We are hoping for this country a good future because this country found a solution for racial discrimination. We are living in Palestine under racial discrimination under Jewish occupation,” he said.
“We are only discussing humanitarian interests, we are not here to discuss political interests.
“We are expecting from Israel more aggression. More bloodshed.”
He said the delegation would be going to other countries to ask for help.
On Thursday Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a statement that thousands of people shot by the Israeli army during protests in Gaza this year are overwhelming the Gazan medical system with complex wounds, infections and disabilities.
According to MSF, the vast majority of the 3 117 patients they have treated from March 30 to October 31 were shot in the legs, with about half suffering open fractures and others suffering severe soft tissue damage. The total number of people hospitalized with gunshot wounds in this period is 5 866, according to Gaza’s ministry of health.
Major funding required
Such a large number of injuries affects not just those injured, but also strains the provision of regular healthcare in Gaza. The consequences of these wounds – especially if untreated –will be lifelong disability for many, and, if infections are not properly treated, amputation or even death, MSF said.
MSF said an adequate response would require major funding, which is urgently needed.
“MSF has already tripled its capacity in Gaza but the volume required of surgery, carefully managed antibiotics, intensive nursing care, and long-term physiotherapy and rehabilitation is staggering,” said Marie-Elisabeth Ingres, MSF’s head of mission in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“This many patients would overstretch the best healthcare systems in the world. In Gaza, it is a crushing blow.”
Human Rights Watch describes the situation in the Palestinian territories as follows in its World Report 2018: “The Israeli government continued to enforce severe and discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians’ human rights; restrict the movement of people and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip, and facilitate the unlawful transfer of Israeli citizens to settlements in the occupied West Bank. Punitive measures taken by the Palestinian Authority (PA) exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in Gaza caused by the closure enforced by Israel. The PA in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza escalated crackdowns on dissent, arbitrarily arresting critics, and abusing those in their custody.”
The organisation says Israel’s continued decade-long effective closure of Gaza, exacerbated by Egypt’s keeping its own border with Gaza largely sealed, and the restrictions Israel imposes limit supply of electricity and water, restrict access to medical care and educational and economic opportunity, and perpetuate poverty.
Approximately 70% of Gaza’s 1.9 million people rely on humanitarian assistance, according to Human Rights Watch.
No formal relations with Israel
Mthembu said some of the members of the ANC caucus were moved to tears as members of the delegation told of their suffering.
“As they were saying all these things, one could not help imagine the time we had the apartheid army and apartheid police in the townships,” Mthembu said.
“But these things we thought we closed the chapter on, continue unabated in Palestine. We are all just human beings. Human beings are suffering in Palestine.”
Mthembu said the ANC doesn’t support a Palestinian political formation, but it supports the people’s struggle against tyranny.
“We hope the parties there can come together and speak with one voice,” he said.
“We will try everything in our power as the ANC to bring together everybody fighting tyranny in Palestine.”
He reiterated the ANC’s position that there shouldn’t be formal relations with Israel until its occupation of Palestinian territories comes to an end.
He said the ANC caucus doesn’t have the means to help, but he would speak with government and President Cyril Ramaphosa. He said the Palestinian delegation would meet with the ANC at Luthuli House on Monday. They will also meet Cosatu, the SACP and other organisations supportive of the Palestinian cause. They will also fit in a visit to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.