Israel Is Killing Gaza’s Medical Workers. This Doctor Saw the Results Firsthand.

On June 1, approximately 50 medical students from Washington University in St. Louis, Saint Louis University, and others interested in the topic gathered at a public library in St. Louis’s Central West End near both campuses to hear neonatal specialist Yassar Arain describe the medical apartheid he experienced while volunteering in a neonatal intensive care unit in Gaza this spring. Some openly wept as he recounted tragedies he’d witnessed but was powerless to avert.

Arain is a Californian of Pakistani descent now practicing medicine in Fort Worth, Texas. He’s also a father of young children. In mid-April, he joined in a two-week medical mission under the aegis of the Palestinian American Bridge, a group of doctors that hosts foreign specialists to help provide care in Gaza in the face of their own drastically reduced numbers. Per the World Health Organization’s (WHO) latest monthly tally, since October 7, 2023, Israel has attacked 464 health care facilities, killed 727 health care workers, injured another 933, and damaged or destroyed 113 ambulances. Among the doctors, 55 specialists were killed, according to a Reuters report. Hundreds of bodies have been found in multiple mass graves at three hospitals. At the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Gaza, Arain was the sole neonatologist.

One of Arain’s patients was an infant who’d been shot in the head during a surprise Israeli attack, while breastfeeding in his mother’s arms. The bullet entered and exited his skull, making two wounds that baby Mustafa somehow survived, but with an unknown developmental fate. He’s since had seizures and needs long-term medical care — and, Arain said, justice. “One of the hardest things that happens for me internally, in my own mind,” Arain told the gathering, “is how we reconcile this with what we promote here in America with newborn mothers, which is skin-to-skin ‘kangaroo’ care. It helps the baby’s temperature stay normal, develops bonding, delivers healthy bacteria to the gut — all these nurturing things. But [think about what] we’re putting Palestinian mothers and infants through.”

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