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British Doctor Bombed in Gaza by Israeli Planes Fitted with UK-Made Weaponry Speaks out for First Time

The attack occurred in a building that the Israel Defense Forces knew contained medics so constitutes a violation of International Humanitarian Law. So why are UK officials doing nothing about it?

Amer Shoaib was bombed while working in Gaza. Photo: Amer Shoaib

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For the first time, Amer Shoaib, a decorated British military veteran and orthopaedic consultant surgeon, has spoken publicly about being bombed in Gaza by an F-16 plane.

BAE Systems has supplied Israel with electronic missile-launching kits for the F-16 aircraft.

The attack occurred in a building that had been “deconflicted,” meaning the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were informed that medics were living there, so the incident constitutes an explicit violation of International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Detailing being bombed while working as a doctor in Gaza – targeted because, he believes, he was a British surgeon – is not something Amer has taken lightly. He has known colleagues who have been reported to the General Medical Council for their support of Palestine and has seen how fellow doctors live in fear of reprimand or censure for their views.

The crater left after the bombing of the hospital. Photo: Amer Shoaib

Amer spoke to Byline Times because he feels the other alternatives – interventions by UK politicians or complaints by Foreign Office officials that Israel committed a war crime in trying to kill him and his fellow UK doctors – are not happening. “I am not a politician and I am not stating any partisan political views”, he says. “I am just reporting as an eye-witness.”

Born and bred in Manchester, Amer boasts an impressive medical and military background. He has been a consultant orthopaedic surgeon since 2008, specialising in trauma, foot and ankle surgery, and limb reconstruction. His career includes service in the Royal Army Medical Corps, where he rose to the rank of Major and was involved in peacekeeping in Bosnia. He has also worked in various other conflict zones, including Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Ukraine and Libya, either operating or teaching war surgery courses.

On October 7, 2023, Amer was at work in Manchester when news broke of the horror unfolding in Israel and Gaza.

An inspector examines the blast site. Photo: Amer Shoaib

“Whenever there is news from the Middle East, you know there will be casualties,” he says. So, when he got an email for help from the charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), he agreed to go to a place where many would pay good money to flee: Gaza.

His was an invaluable offering. Unlike many doctors, Amer is used to treating bomb-blast victims. His specialist reconstructive surgical skills at Manchester Royal Infirmary – a major trauma centre – were key in getting many of the victims of the 2017 Arena suicide attack back on their feet.

Passport details were sent to Israel, and reams of paperwork and career histories shared. The Israeli government was well aware that Amer and his colleagues were asking to travel to a country they were bombing on an hourly basis.

Time ticked on, and the body count rose, but it wasn’t until mid-December that permission was granted. It took another month before Amer and the team, including three other colleagues from the UK and a trauma surgeon from the US, eventually entered Gaza through the Rafah border crossing in Egypt in January 2024.

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Upon arrival, Amer witnessed the chaos and trauma of a humanitarian crisis unfolding first hand. It was as desperate as Haiti was after the earthquake, he says. Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) filled the hospital grounds and corridors, living in makeshift tents with limited sanitation. His phone is filled with photos of hunched tents and rubble-strewn fields, packed with thousands fleeing for their lives.

“What was striking was that within the hospital grounds, it was a refugee camp. People were living on top of each other in tents, with very limited sanitation facilities,” Amer says.

Every space was taken – even the waiting room in the outpatient department had six bread ovens baking away beside patients arriving in their bloody ranks. Every corridor in the hospital had half the width occupied by mattresses on the floor with IDPs sitting and lying – children, men and women of all ages. Even the landings on the stairwells were used as makeshift shelters. Every office in the hospital was home to a doctor or nurse and their entire family.

Amer and his colleagues quickly set to work, providing surgical care, dealing with complex and contaminated penetrating injuries from shrapnel and bullets. The patients he dealt with were from all demographics – children and elderly. There was no stream of fighting-age men under his surgical knife, as the IDF claims: the violence here, he says, was indiscriminate.

Sunset over Gaza. Photo: Amer Shoaib

And as they worked, the war got closer and closer.

“The atmosphere was incredibly tense. We could hear the tanks firing just outside the hospital, and the noise was deafening,” Amer recalls. The blast waves were so powerful they shook the entire building. One Gazan doctor was injured by the shelling, Amer operated on him, and the charity’s security adviser moved the staff to an internal surgical location to get away from the threat of windows exploding from blast waves.

“The tanks were so close that we could see the flashes from their guns and hear the small arms fire. Each time a tank fired, the shockwaves would blow open the window shutters, causing them to bang violently against the walls,” Amer says.

Patient admissions were seemingly endless. These were just those who managed to get out of the red zones (where anyone was seen to be a target) and to the safety of a hospital. Countless others died under rubble. The death toll is currently around 36,400.

“One of the most heart-wrenching cases involved a young child who was brought in after a drone attack on a UN food convoy”, Amer says. “The child had severe shrapnel injuries to the abdomen. When my general surgical colleagues were operating, we found that the shrapnel had caused extensive internal damage. His liver was severely lacerated, and one of his kidneys was shattered beyond repair. There was no choice but to remove the kidney. There were also multiple perforations in another child’s bowel, which required delicate and extensive repair. The child was only around seven years old, and the extent of the internal damage was devastating.”

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But things became even more personal on January 18, 2024, when a missile struck a remote building where Amer and his colleagues were staying. The house had been deconflicted, meaning the IDF had been informed of its coordinates, marking the presence of medics. Despite this, a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) guided missile was dropped by an F-16 fighter jet, a plane part-manufactured by the UK defence giant BAE Systems.

The explosion left an immense crater, leaving Amer and his team covered in debris but miraculously unharmed. Had the bomb landed ten feet to the south then he and the other doctors would all be dead.

“Everything went completely white, and the ceiling and windows caved in,” Amer says. “We were lucky. It was a minor miracle just because of where the bomb landed.”

Amer believes the missile strike, clearly targeted and precise, is an evident breach of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), endangering the lives of medical professionals protected under the Geneva Convention. If true, it means British doctors were deliberately bombed by British weaponry in a conflict UK leaders have not condemned.

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“We really trusted the deconfliction process,” Amer says. “We were naive enough to believe that carrying a British passport still had some weight and that it was going to afford us some kind of protection. This was a targeted attack.”

Since returning to the UK, Amer has sought to raise complaints about the bombing, writing to MPs and others. A lack of any substantive response and a reluctance to address the issue has been his main experience.

“My colleague wrote to his MP, who wrote to a minister in the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. The response was full of platitudes about how terrible it was and how terrible things were happening on both sides. It didn’t commit to doing anything,” Amer says.

Amer is deeply perplexed with the British government’s stance. “I hear Rishi Sunak saying ‘a ceasefire now is in nobody’s interest’, and I can’t think of words that express my contempt for it. Having seen childrens’ bodies ripped apart by these bombs every day, I can categorically refute those words – a ceasefire is in the interests of these children, and disinterest in the fate of these children or civilians anywhere is despicable.”

Similarly, Amer is confounded by the views of opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer. “Having been a member of the Labour Party most of my life, I can’t identify with somebody who says that it’s acceptable to deny an entire civilian population of two and a half million people food and water as part of the execution of war.

“I am really troubled by the lack of any clear UK governmental communication of concern about the attack on us to the Israelis. If there had been a more robust and clear response to the attack on our deconflicted compound, would the World Central Kitchen attacks, which killed three UK military veterans, have happened?”

The impact of the bombing went beyond immediate physical danger. It also severely disrupted the medical mission. The attack forced Amer and his team to depart early, depriving the hospital of crucial medical expertise.

“We should have been there for another week, providing care and relief to the overworked local doctors. Instead, we had to leave – fearing we were being deliberately targeted – and, as such, the hospital lost a significant amount of medical support.”

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Amer’s experience in Gaza also left him with a deep sense of survivor’s guilt. “We got a taste of what it was like for the people who actually lived there. And of course, we had the opportunity to leave. We left behind people we had grown very close to, who knew they weren’t going to be allowed to leave.”

But, more than that, the targeting of a marked house where doctors were residing, and the subsequent lack of action from the UK government, raises profound concerns to this man who has served his country in both the military and the NHS.

“This incident exemplifies the broader challenges faced by medical professionals in conflict zones and the imperative for stronger international protections and accountability mechanisms,” Amer says. “If the British government is aware that its citizens are being directly targeted and does nothing, what message does that send to the rest of the world?”


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