Cape Town - Maysara Rayyes, 28, was an emergency medical doctor and medical supervisor who was killed alongside family members, eight in total, when their home was bombed by Israel Defence Forces (IDF) on November 5.
Two surviving brothers returned to the site the next day to retrieve the bodies, digging with their hands, when a second IDF bomb struck the building, killing them too.
Rayyes was one of more than 200 healthcare workers who were killed as a result of the incessant bombardment by the IDF since October 7.
His story was shared by colleague and friend Dr Mads Gilbert, currently in South Africa as a guest of Salaamedia, during a media briefing on Monday.
As a member of the Norwegian Aid Committee (NORWAC) emergency medical team, Dr Gilbert is currently conducting advocacy work in Egypt, Jordan, and now South Africa as he awaits entry into Gaza to offer support to Palestinian colleagues.
Gilbert, a Norwegian physician, humanitarian and activist said the Israeli occupation forces have systematically attacked healthcare and healthcare workers in Gaza and the West Bank and that this did not just start following the events of October 7.
Gilbert, who has worked at Gaza’s largest hospital facility, Al-Shifa, for 20 years, debunked claims of a Hamas Command Centre at the facility, a justification used by Israel for a military incursion at the hospital.
The IDF also opened fire at people who tried to dig a mass grave at the hospital, he said.
“Imagine if the Palestinian resistance had killed this amount of Israeli healthcare workers, what the world would have said.
“It is abhorrent and it is passing away without any noise or audible protests from the West,” he said.
“Gaza is not a natural disaster. It is a man-made disaster, 100% man-made, planned and executed by the Israeli government and the Israeli occupation forces.
“And unlike all others, both natural disasters and armed conflicts, the international community is not allowed by the occupiers to come to Gaza,” Dr Gilbert said.
“There should’ve been hundreds and thousands of health workers from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), from all the NGOs in Gaza now.
“There should’ve been relief support, should’ve been tents, blankets, food, water and medicines and none of the hospitals should’ve been attacked and destroyed.
“But this exceptionalism applies only to the attacking force, to the State of Israel. And that is a huge moral and political, and existential problem in our time.”
Of the 24 000 wounded, there were many cases requiring surgery, particularly for head trauma, open fractures, and burns. There were only nine out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals that were partially functioning with just 1 400 beds.
Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) spokesperson Professor Usuf Chikte said they were alarmed about the over 80 South Africans who have volunteered in Israel and wanted to bring this to the attention of the South African Government.
National Health Department spokesperson Foster Mohale said: “The Department is not aware that the medical doctors travelled to Israel or did not send any medical team from public health to Israel, unless they went there in their own personal capacity.”
The World Health Organisation said Al-Shifa Hospital could no longer admit patients and that the injured and sick were being directed to the “seriously overwhelmed and barely functioning Indonesian Hospital.”
The Indonesian Hospital, the only hospital still functioning in northern Gaza, was attacked by Israeli artillery fire, killing at least 12 Palestinians in the hospital complex. Hospital staff said they would remain at the hospital to treat their patients.
Signs of shelling and gunfire were also evident at Al-Shifa facility.
“There is a deep moral defect and I think the Israeli army has collapsed morally, not just now for a long time ago. But this moral collapse that we see now, is unprecedented,” Dr Gilbert said.
“They have to be disarmed. They can't be allowed to have weapons. Look at what they’re doing. And why is nobody reacting because the people of Gaza have the wrong skin colour and the wrong faith and the wrong position in the world.”