Israeli Attacks on Gaza’s Healthcare System Should Be Investigated – Human Rights Watch

Israel intensified its attacks against Gaza hospitals. (Photo: via WAFA)

By Palestine Chronicle Staff  

Israeli repeated attacks on hospitals, medical facilities, personnel and transport should be investigated as war crimes – HRW

The Israeli military’s “repeated, apparently unlawful attacks on medical facilities, personnel, and transport are further destroying the Gaza Strip’s healthcare system and should be investigated as war crimes”, Human Rights Watch said  in a report on Tuesday.

The Report

In the report, the human rights group said that “the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, have been killed in 137 attacks on health care in Gaza as of November 12.”

These attacks, along with Israel’s decisions to cut off electricity and water and block humanitarian aid to Gaza, have “severely impeded health care access”, according to HRW.

“Hospitals have run out of medicine and basic equipment, and doctors told Human Rights Watch that they were forced to operate without anesthesia and to use vinegar as an antiseptic,” the report added.

A. Kayum Ahmed, special adviser on the right to health at Human Rights Watch, stated that “Israel’s repeated attacks damaging hospitals and harming healthcare workers, already hard hit by an unlawful blockade, have devastated Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure.”

Moreover, “the strikes on hospitals have killed hundreds of people and put many patients at grave risk because they’re unable to receive proper medical care,” Ahmed added.

HRW Investigations

The report is based on investigations conducted by HRW on attacks carried out by Israel on several hospitals throughout the Gaza Strip, including the Indonesian Hospital, al-Ahli Hospital, the International Eye Care Center, the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital, and the al-Quds Hospital, between October 7 and November 7.

Human Rights Watch spoke by phone with two displaced people sheltering in hospitals and 16 healthcare workers and hospital officials in Gaza and analyzed and verified open-source data, including videos posted to social media and satellite imagery, as well as WHO databases.

Israeli forces struck the Indonesian Hospital multiple times between October 7 and October 28, killing at least two civilians.

The International Eye Care Center was struck repeatedly and completely destroyed after a strike on October 10 or 11.

Israeli strikes hit the compound and vicinity of the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital on October 30 and 31. Damage to the hospital as well as a lack of fuel for hospital generators resulted in its closure on November 1.

Repeated Israeli strikes damaged the al-Quds Hospital and injured a man and child out front.

Israeli forces on several occasions struck well-marked ambulances, killing and wounding at least a dozen people in one incident on November 3, including children, outside al-Shifa hospital.

These ongoing attacks are not isolated. Israeli forces have also carried out scores of strikes damaging several other hospitals across Gaza.

Unprecedented  Numbers

Health workers at Gaza’s hospitals told Human Rights Watch they are dealing with unprecedented numbers of injured patients. Additionally, thousands of internally displaced people sheltering at hospitals have been put at risk, facing shortages of food and medicine.

Gaza’s hospitals have been forced to address these issues with shortages of medical staff, some of whom have been killed or injured outside their work.

“Hospitals and other medical facilities are civilian objects that have special protections under international humanitarian law, or the laws of war,” the report said, adding:

“Even if military forces unlawfully use a hospital to store weapons or encamp able-bodied combatants, the attacking force must issue a warning to cease this misuse, set a reasonable time limit for it to end, and lawfully attack only after such a warning has gone unheeded.”

Therefore, according to HRW, “Ordering patients, medical staff, and others to evacuate a hospital should only be used as a last resort. Medical personnel need to be protected and permitted to do their work.”

“The Israeli government should immediately end unlawful attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and other civilian objects, as well as its total blockade of the Gaza Strip, which amounts to the war crime of collective punishment,” Human Rights Watch concluded.

(The Palestine Chronicle)

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