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HEALTHCARE workers in 16 cities across Britain mobilised at the weekend as hundreds of thousands of Palestine supporters again took to the streets demanding an end to Israel’s slaughter of the people of Gaza.
Hospital and health centre staff including consultants, doctors and support staff held candle-lit vigils and commemorated more than 250 doctors, nurses and other health workers who are among more than 15,000 Palestinians killed, including in Israel’s criminal targeting of hospitals.
The protests came as the Campaign Against Arms Trade (Caat) revealed that the government has licensed more than £474 million in weapons sales to Israel since 2015, including components for aircraft, helicopters, drones, bombs, missiles, technology, armoured vehicles, tanks, ammunition and small arms.
In Leeds, about 50 healthcare workers including members of public sector union Unison staged a vigil in the city’s Mandela Gardens on Friday night and heard reports of the suffering of their counterparts in Gaza.
Dr Reyhana Henderson, a consultant paediatrician in Bradford, told the vigil: “Tonight we are among 16 other UK cities as well as 15 cities around the globe who are holding healthcare workers’ vigils.”
She said that "no war in the history of humankind has seen medics, paramedics, healthcare workers, ambulances and hospitals being targeted on such a mass scale and in such a brutal way.
“We have learnt that over the last seven weeks 25 out of 36 hospitals have been destroyed in Gaza.
“This means 80 per cent of hospitals and aid and humanitarian buildings are not able to provide any sort of care for the mass numbers of patients and casualties.
“Even if civilians survive the bombardment or slow death under the rubble there is going to be very little chance of them surviving with the lack of healthcare systems in place.
“Over the last eight weeks we’ve also learned that to date 258 fellow healthcare colleagues have been killed in Gaza since the war started, including 92 doctors and 80 nurses.
“On average about five healthcare workers have been killed every day.
“We have had first-hand reports of the catastrophic situation in Gaza from Professor Gussan Abu Sita who is a surgeon from al-Ahli hospital under the wing of Medecins Sans Frontieres.”
She said the surgeon had told of “the horrible situation the brave healthcare workers in Gaza are dealing with and the systematic destruction of hospitals by Israel since the war started.”
“This is a truly a catastrophic humanitarian crisis which has turned Gaza into a death zone,” she said.
Caat advocacy manager Katie Fallon said the government was complicit in Israel’s “unprecedented escalation in violence” in Gaza.
“The continued licensing and export of UK arms and components to Israel not only makes the UK government complicit in the most serious of human rights violations, but signals political support for perpetual occupation and war,” she said.
She called for an “immediate two-way arms embargo.”
Protests took place in many smaller towns and communities as well as major cities.
In Margate in Kent hundreds marched and rallied on Saturday in a demonstration organised by South East Kent Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SEKPSC).
Donal Lennon of SEKPSC told the rally: “We must not stand by and wait for someone else to do something.
“As a community, as a town and as individuals, we have to take a stand. We have to say no to genocide, no to apartheid, no to occupation.”
In Manchester a 14-year-old girl from Palestine, Noura, addressed a rally organised by Greater Manchester Friends of Palestine.
In London protesters staged an eighth consecutive Saturday of action. Speakers included Jeremy Corbyn, Salma Yaqoob, Barnaby Raine, Lara Elborno from Gaza, PSC chair Kamel Hawwash, Tariq Ali, Lindsey German and Andrew Murray.
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