Archbishop: Attack on Gaza Health Clinic 'Incomprehensible'

( [email protected] ) Jan 15, 2009 12:16 PM EST

The Archbishop of Wales has condemned an Israeli missile attack over the weekend on a church-run health clinic in Gaza.

Shij’ia Clinic, run by the Near East Council of Churches (NECC) and funded by Christian Aid, was given just 15 minutes to evacuate. No one was injured in the attack but the building was completely destroyed by missiles on Saturday, along with hundreds of thousands of pounds of medical equipment.

There are fears that a mobile dental clinic, run by the NECC and funded by the Church in Wales, was also destroyed.

“We find it incomprehensible and tragic that any armed forces anywhere in the world would want to destroy such a building, let alone the State of Israel with all its historic memories of oppression and genocide," Dr. Barry Morgan said.

“To hear the news that the only health facilities in this part of Gaza have been destroyed, leaving the population of that area without any medical facilities at all, is horrendous. It does raise questions about the credibility of Israel’s values and purposes.”

There were 10,836 families registered at the clinic, which provided free primary health care and included a mother and baby clinic. Those families had, he said, “effectively been removed of any hope of medical provision and support.”

“It is hard to understand why Israel would allow, let alone commission, an attack on a facility which provides support mostly to young babies and their mothers,” he said.

“We have no reason to believe that this building was producing or distributing arms or being used as a base or launch pad for rockets sent into Israel. If there is evidence to the contrary we would like to see it.”

Morgan wrote to the Israeli Ambassador to London on Tuesday asking why Israel had attacked the Shij’ia Family Health Care Center in Gaza City.

“We are perplexed and shocked at this attack and are looking for an explanation for it from the Israeli Ambassador,” he said.

Constantine Dabbagh, executive director of the Near East Council of Churches, called on the international community to act.

“The world needs to wake up and stop this. They need to wake up and end the siege and the occupation. Then there will be some time for peace and reconciliation,” said Dabbagh.

“Otherwise, this bloody atmosphere will continue. The responsibility of the superpowers, including the U.S. and Britain, is to stop these horrors. “If it does not we will all encounter more miserable conditions in the future, God forbid.”

Janet Symes, Christian Aid’s head of Middle East Region, visited the clinic last year. She described it as "standing room only as so many mothers had brought their babies and small children for check ups or treatment."

“The doctors were telling me how they’d increased their hours but still needed more staff to be able to cope with the huge numbers of patients," she added. "Now the whole clinic lies in ruins. All the equipment is destroyed.

“This just underlines how critical an immediate ceasefire is to stop this destruction.”

Another Christian hospital in the city is, meanwhile, struggling to cope with the high volume of patients from the current conflict and a shortage in fuel, food and other essential items.

Al Ahli Hospital said many of its staff members were working without rest to treat the 40 new patients coming in every day as a result of the conflict, many in need of surgery.

BibleLands, a Christian agency working in the Middle East, is releasing over $14,000 to support the hospital.

Chief Executive Nigel Edward-Few said it had been advised against making payments directly into the hospital's bank account because the banks in Gaza do not have the physical money to pay out.

"Even if the money were available, there is little or nothing to buy in Gaza," he said.

Biblelands has instead sent the funds to the Diocese of Jerusalem, which will take supplies into Gaza from Jerusalem via trucks that are allowed entry during the three-hour ceasefires.

Edward-Few added, "It is impossible for us to imagine the true extent of the crisis in Gaza and we are keen to make sure we support our partners in the most effective way possible."