Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre sharply increased his criticism of Israel’s warfare in Gaza on Saturday, calling it “totally unacceptable.” He claims Gaza is now, in reality, without any functioning hospitals and that Israel risks losing any sympathy it has left.
“The manner in which Israel’s warfare is affecting the health care sector and the entire humanitarian system is totally unacceptable and must stop,” Støre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) as the country headed into the Christmas holidays.
The bombing of hospitals in Gaza, he added, “means that more than 2 million people who have a very large need for medical help are in a vulnerable situation that we simply can’t accept.”
The UN Security Council, hit by constant vetos from the US regarding the vast majority’s calls for a ceasefire, finally approved a resolution demanding an increase in emergency aid to Gaza. That includes, according to Støre, a condition that “health care workers at hospitals, and those helping the most in need, must be protected and not attacked.” He’s alarmed over how Gaza’s health care system has “completly broken down” after weeks of incessant bombing and ground attacks.
Israeli leaders, Støre said, should “think through this. They can lose the sympathy they had after the gruesome terrorist attack on October 7 if this continues.” News bureau NTB reported that the number of protests against Israel and reports of anti-Semitism has doubled since last year, according to the Norwegian police, with half of the reports filed after the war began.
Doctors ‘not allowed to do their job’
The Norwegian prime minister earlier served for nearly seven years as Norway’s foreign minister, and has been active in efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East for nearly 30 years. He’s appalled to see video of Palestinian health care personnel “being taken out of the hospital, interrogated and stripped. They’re not allowed to do their job. That’s completely unacceptable. This is extremely serious.”
Støre noted how his government condemned the terrorist attack by the radical Palestinian organization Hamas, calling it “a terrible incident that killed civilians in Israel.” The war Israel quickly declared on Hamas, however, “has developed in a manner that we can’t accept. The health care system must be protected. Civilians must be protected.”
More than 20,000 civilians in Gaza, have instead been killed, including more than 8,000 children. A Norwegian surgeon who’s worked in Gaza’s hospitals says he thinks Israel aims to make Gaza uninhabitable.
“When Israel says that Hamas is hiding under a hospital, that doesn’t make it legal (under the Geneva Convention) to bomb the hospital,” Dr Erik Fosse told newspaper Dagsavisen on Saturday. He also leads the Norwegian Aid Committee (Norwac) in Gaza and knew many Palestinian doctors who’ve been killed along with their families.
Fosse noted how most hospitals have tunnels underneath their buildings, also in Norway, and that “Israel knows well where Hamas leaders are, and they’re not in Gaza.” Attacking the hospitals in order to attack Hamas, he claims, is part of Israel’s goal to also destroy Gaza itself. He said all of Norwac’s employees have already lost their homes.
NRK also ran video on its nightly national newscast Saturday showing Israeli troops beating journalists, dozens of whom have also been killed since Israel’s war on Hamas in Gaza began. The state broadcaster also reported how a former US State Department official, Josh Paul, has urged Norway to raise its voice in talks with the US, an important NATO ally.
Paul, who quit in protest over US weapons delivery to Israel, is glad Norway has criticized Israel warfare and issued calls for a ceasefire and “the enormous suffering in Gaza,” but claims that’s not enough. “I believe the US has lost its moral compass when it comes to the conflict between Israel and Palestine,” Paul told NRK, adding that’s why “we need US allies to speak up, and remind us of our values.”
Norway’s foreign ministry responded that it has “a good and close dialogue with the USA” regarding the war in Gaza. “American authorities are well aware of our views … and that it’s necessary to launch a political process with the goal being a two-state solution. We will continue this dialogue until there is an agreement on a ceasefire.” Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide stated that he thinks there’s been “an international movement” in recent weeks “in which more countries have moved closer to our position. That applies also to the USA.”