Israeli airstrikes in Gaza leveled the Islamic University-owned Kahil building early Tuesday morning, destroying a library and a number of offices, including those of Tashkeel3D, a key manufacturer of 3D-printed medical equipment.
The move comes as Israeli forces continue to hammer Gaza, killing 217 Palestinians so far, according to the Associated Press. Yesterday, The Norwegian Refugee Council said that 11 children participating in a trauma program were left dead by airstrikes—in total 63 children have lost their lives over the past week and a half. Twelve Israelis have reportedly been killed in rocket strikes fired by Hamas.
Tashkeel3D is the original Gaza affiliate of the Canada-based Glia Project, an organization founded by ER doctor Tarek Loubani which works with regional partners to develop and produce low-cost and open-source 3D-printed medical equipment. Among other tools, Tashkeel3D has developed 3D-printed tourniquets: compression devices used to limit bleeding.
Loubani—who was shot by Israeli forces while treating injured Palestinians in 2018—told Motherboard that those tourniquets saved the lives of “countless Palestnians,” with the ongoing blockade making it difficult to import medical equipment from abroad. Loubani said the facility's destruction now comes at a critical time, and hampers the ability to locally manufacture medical supplies in anticipation of continued fighting.
“If ground fighting happens, then we will be going back to what’s called ‘penetrating injuries,’ where bleeding out is one of the biggest concerns,” Loubani said. “We know that a substantial number of people during 2014 died of exsanguination—they bled to death—and would have not been treatable if not for a tourniquet. To lose half of our production capacity for this is absolutely devastating.”
Before the recent violence, Tashkeel3D printed personal protective equipment (PPE) as COVID-19 swept through Palestine, killing thousands. When earlier in the pandemic Canadian hospitals struggled with PPE shortages, Glia Gaza, including Tashkeel3D, came to Glia Canada’s aid, helping the organization to immediately begin producing face shields. According to Loubani, the first 3D printer in Gaza was built in Tashkeel3D’s offices.
In a message to Motherboard, Mohammed Abu Matar, the founder of Tashkeel3D, expressed grief, but also determination, after the destruction of his life’s work.
“I preferred to work in Gaza and serve my people, and I am aware of the extent of the risks that I will be exposed to in all respects, but I never imagined that my work would be completely destroyed and return to [the] zero point,” he wrote. “I was calm and at peace when I received the news. Life in Gaza taught us to be strong and coherent, but my beautiful memories with this company passed in front of me within seconds and I felt sad.”
Loubani said that he and Abu Matar anticipated that something like this could happen and decided to split the organization's Gaza-based 3D printing capacity in two, meaning that Glia can at least continue to produce medical equipment, albeit far less
“This is a devastating setback,” Loubani told Motherboard. “Ultimately with this situation we have an emergency response that needs to happen, how are we going to make enough medical equipment to meet the needs of Palestinians? We’re going to have to rebuild.”
Rebuilding will take time though, Loubani said. Tashkeel3D was more than just a manufacturer, it was a symbol of hope and innovation for Palestinians. Abu Matar and his team started from nothing, building 3D printers using recycled plastic and solar power; it was one of the hearts of open source culture in Gaza.
Yet, while his tools may be destroyed, Abu Matar’s vision remains alive.
“In our Canaanite Phoenician culture, we have the legend of the phoenix that dies and then comes out of the ashes again,” he wrote. “This will not affect my determination to rebuild and lead stronger than before.”
In response to a request for comment from Motherboard, an Israeli Defense Forces spokesperson said they would look into the matter.