Forty one days into Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip has seen the Israeli Defence Forces inflict immense damage on Palestinian civilians. The death toll, according to the Gaza health ministry, now stands at 14,000, meaning a staggering one out of 200 people in Gaza have died.
Scroll spoke to the Palestinian ambassador to India, Adnan Abu Alhaijaa, at the Palestinian Embassy in Delhi to understand the scale of the destruction as well as the part he wanted India to play.
The ambassador highlighted India’s historic role as a friend of Palestine. He also urged the Indian government to be a mediator between Israel and Palestine and put pressure on the Israeli government to declare a ceasefire.
What is a situation in Gaza right now after the IDF’s ground invasion?
I think the whole world is following the situation in Gaza after 41 days. The situation is very bad. And you can imagine 2.2 million people without water, without food, without electricity, without fuel. In the hospitals they don’t have oxygen now, because there is no electricity. We are expecting our hospitals to collapse. We have 35 hospitals in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday already 20 of those have stopped working. The rest might also collapse within 40 hours because there is no fuel for the generators.
This is a kind of genocide.
The Israelis have killed more than 14,000 up to now. Already registered 11,500 [as dead] and we have maybe more than 3,000 under the building rubble. These [buried bodies] will also cause pollution and we don’t know what kind of illnesses people will get because of these bodies.
Now Israelis are attacking the main hospital in Gaza Strip, which is al-Shifa hospital. The spokesman of the Israeli army was talking about more than one level of tunnels under the Shifa hospital. They found nothing. And I think they are lying. They found weapons, which I think also is a new lie from the Israelis.
As long as there was no international media with them when they entered that room, where they said they found these weapons, no one should believe them. Because they were lying for 40 days up to now. They want to say that they found something. They were talking about tunnels, more than one level under the operating room [but] they found nothing. They just tortured the patients in the hospitals and the doctors, And you have seen that [premature] children, how they are without incubators. I think not even the Nazis themselves have done what the Israelis are doing now.
What do you think of India’s political response to the conflict? Are you happy with what the Indian government has done till now?
There are very old and historical relations between India and Palestine and I hope they will play the role of a mediator between Israel and Palestine. I hope they will call for a ceasefire. India is a very important country for us. And we are still looking to India to do something to end this bloody war.
There was a UN resolution which asked for a ceasefire, which India actually abstained from. So what is your response to that?
I don’t want to, khallas... I don’t want to talk too much about this matter.
India has been a very strong friend of Palestine throughout its history. In fact, in 2018 Prime Minister Narendra Modi got the highest civilian honor from the Palestinian government. Do you think India has maintained that level of friendship or do you think there’s been a change?
Hope they will not change. Right now let me say that we have not seen [an] official statement from India about the situation. There was a tweet. And we have heard that there is no change of or shift of their attitudes toward Palestine.
We are looking to strengthen the relations between India and Palestine.
And do you think India has done enough in this conflict? Do you think India should push to put more pressure on Israel to stop its aggression in Gaza?
I hope they do more.
But you think it has done enough?
I don’t want to discuss that matter. I don’t want to go too much into this subject. Khallas, what we have said is enough.
Israel has actually also attacked Lebanon and Syria after this conflict started. Where do you see this going? Do you see this developing into a larger regional conflict? Is that what Israel wants?
What we are looking [for] as Palestinian is to stop war, first of all. So we are not looking to escalate the situation with other countries. Now we are concentrating on [a] ceasefire and calling the international community to go for [a] peace process in general, leading to establishing the state of Palestine on the land of 1967. This is not the first war, not the second, not the third. Each one has become bloodier than the one before.
If the international community does not go for [a] peace process, maybe the next war will be more bloody than this war. So we are looking for a ceasefire. We are against escalating the war. And we are looking to the international community to play their role according to international law. We have more than 800 resolutions in the United Nations. Israel has never implemented even one of them. And the United States or the international community is not putting any pressure on Israel to implement those resolutions.
Enough is enough. If you don’t want to see more war, don’t tell me Hamas is terrorist or Palestinians are terrorists – the terrorist is the [Israeli] occupation. The biggest terrorist is the occupation. End the occupation, everybody will live in peace. We are looking [forward] to see our children live and play like any other children in the world. With this extreme [Israeli] government, there will never be any peace in the area. And we don’t know, with this extremist government, how the situation will escalate later. The Israelis have killed more than 200 people in the West Bank, injured 1,000 and jailed 2,750 since October 7. In Gaza, more than 14,000 killed and more than 31,000 injured.
From the beginning of this year, they have killed 260 people before October 7. And that killing and the extremist [Israeli] government led to October 7. This [Israeli] government is more extreme than the Nazi government. So we again blame the international community and we call them today to do their role.
Do you think that Arab states in the region have done enough to support the Palestinian cause, countries like Saudi Arabia?
Without mentioning any one of the Arab countries, we hope they will also make more [efforts].
There was an Arab Islamic summit meeting in Saudi Arabia, a committee has been formed to follow the situation. I hope they will do their job.
What is now the outlook of the average Palestinian in the West Bank towards the atrocities in Gaza?
We are one people: in the West Bank or in Gaza or anywhere in the world as a Palestinian. Sometimes there is conflict between the political parties. But when a foreign enemy attacks the Palestinian people, we are united. People in the West Bank, they have the same feelings that the people in the Gaza Strip have. Our refugees all around the world have the same [feelings]. And we are ready to support our people in Gaza Strip with all our means.
In the West Bank, the people are struggling peacefully against this occupation, same as our brothers in Gaza.
I mentioned the number of people who have been detained by this government in the West Bank. More than 200 have been killed. The Israelis have attacked the Palestinians every day.
Since October 7?
They were always [being attacked] but the threat [has been] much more since October 7. Since October 7, they have killed 200. From the beginning of the year till October 7 they killed 260 people. And normally Palestinian cities are an area that the Israeli army is not allowed to enter according to the Oslo Accords. But they destroyed the Oslo Accords, they destroyed the Two State Solution. They are confiscating land, stealing land every day, building settlements, stealing our water and selling it [back] to us at a very high price. When you go to these settlers in the settlements, they have swimming pools. But we don’t have enough water for our home gardens.
Gaza has been sieged for 17 years. 2.2 million of our people are living in an open prison. You know the area of Gaza is 365 square kilometers. They can’t move outside this area. They can’t come to the West Bank as an example, to be in touch with their relatives. The poverty in Gaza Strip was more than 70% before October 7. We don’t know what the percentage will be after this war.
Fatah, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which controlled Gaza, have not always seen eye to eye. In fact, around a couple of decades back, they even fought in Gaza. How do you see this present conflict impacting Fatah? Do you think it will have to be more aggressive?
Look, I told you that we are one people, first of all. Secondly, it is not Fatah who is ruling the West Bank, the Palestinian Authority is ruling the West Bank. And the Palestinian Authority is responsible for all things in Gaza except the security. Only the security is with Hamas. Health, we are responsible, water we are responsible.
We have the same ministries in Gaza as we have in the West Bank and we pay more for Gaza’s budget than the West Bank budget. Why? Because poverty in Gaza is more than the West Bank. So the problem is not Fatah. I told you when there is foreign enemy attacking the Palestinian people, all parties, not only Fatah or Hamas, all parties are united. And we defend our people, wherever they are.
India’s been a longtime friend of Palestine. Is there a message that you want to give to the Indian people as to what their response should be to the conflict right now?
I call the Indian people to support the Palestinian cause as they always have. The Indian people, they knew since Mahatma Gandhi, what is the Palestinian cause. So hope they will take steps to show the same support they have always shown Palestine.
Would you want India to mediate in this conflict?
I hope so, yes. Because India is a friend of both [Israel and Palestine]. And I think India, maybe with other countries, could create pressure on Israel to implement at least a ceasefire, [and] then to [implement] a peace process.
Interview has been edited lightly for clarity.