Action by Churches Together: Bombed Gaza clinic to rise from the rubble

Action by Churches Together: Bombed Gaza clinic to rise from the rubble

Action by Churches Together: Bombed Gaza clinic to rise from the rubble

Action by Churches Together: Bombed Gaza clinic to rise from the rubble

By Andrew Hogg

GAZA CITY, 30 January 2009–Constantine Dabbagh had prepared himself for the worst when he visited the ruins of the Gaza clinic for mothers and children run by his organisation which was destroyed by an Israeli jet.

Nonetheless, the scale of devastation shocked him. “There was a heap of rubble, and some papers from files blowing about in the wind, and that was all. Nothing survived,” he said.

“We thought there might have been something we could keep as a memento of 40 years work serving the community, but everything had been obliterated. Only after digging did we find a couple of smashed machines.

“I cannot express how I felt. I didn’t cry, but my heart was aching. For humans to have caused this made it especially shocking.”

It wasn’t until several weeks after the attack that Mr Dabbagh, aged 70, the executive director in Gaza of the Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees, was able to carry out the inspection.

A Palestinian Christian, he was spending Christmas in Bethlehem when the Israeli incursion into Gaza started, and it wasn’t until the ceasefire nearly a fortnight ago that he was able to return home.

The clinic, in the densely populated Shujaiya district of Gaza City, was destroyed after people living in the flat above received a telephone warning from the Israelis to vacate the premises. A missile strike followed 15 minutes later.

The ACT International supported clinic was closed at the time because of the security situation, but the bombing destroyed medicines, and thousands of dollars worth of equipment.

One of only three clinics serving a population of 80,000, it offered pre and post natal care, and the services of gynaecologists and general doctors. It had also recently launched an ambition programme to visit 15,000 homes to check every child between six months and three years old for malnutrition.

“So much has to be replaced,” said Mr Dabbagh. “We had a laboratory fully equipped for blood tests and ultrasound, and we had only just put in computers with a management information system.

“There was a six week stock of medicine and water purification equipment, as well as milk and nutritious biscuits for the malnutrition programme.”

After visiting the ruins, Mr Dabbagh said a clinic operating out of borrowed premises would be up and running within days. “The community is very anxious that we continue, so we will be replacing what we can and starting from scratch,” he said.

“The silence of Western governments in the face of incidents like this is the silence of the grave,” he added. “After nearly

41 years of occupation we have to say enough is enough. We are humiliated and oppressed, enslaved and imprisoned. You reach madness if you do not believe in God.

“It affects the young people particularly. They will not forgive anybody for what is going on. It is a tragedy.”

Mr Dabbagh said the reason the building was targeted remained a mystery. He was adamant that it had not been used for military purposes by Hamas.

ACT members report that it is the women and children who will suffer most from this destruction as they now have nowhere to go for vital health care in their neighbourhood until the new clinic is rebuilt.


The Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees–a partner of Global Ministries–runs two other clinics in Gaza that are fully operational — one in the Darraj area and one in the Rafah refugee camp. These clinics have received fresh supplies of medicines and medical equipment supported by ACT. The ACT appeal for Gaza also seeks funding to help reconstruct the destroyed Shujaiya clinic.

Andrew Hogg is a freelance journalist reporting from Gaza.

ACT members Middle East Council of Churches Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees (DSPR), East Jerusalem Young Men Christian Association (YMCA), DanChurchAid (DCA), International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and Norwegian Church Aid (NCA) are working together under a joint ACT appeal.  Action by Churches Together (ACT) International is a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies worldwide.  The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ are members of the ACT network.