WHO denounces more than 230 Israeli attacks on Palestinian health care

Medics transport an injured Palestinian child at Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza after an Israeli airstrike on 11 October 2023. | Palestinian News & Information Agency (Wafa) in contract with APAimages

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WHO denounces more than 230 Israeli attacks on Palestinian health care

Written by Helena Rodríguez

More than half of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip are locked down, while those still functioning are on the verge of collapse, reports the World Health Organisation, which is calling for an immediate ceasefire.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has recorded at least 137 attacks on health care in Gaza over the past 36 days, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries to health workers on duty, from 7 October to 12 November. In the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a whole, the number of attacks exceeds 230, taking into account the 96 attacks in Cisjordania  from 7 to 24 October.

Military attacks, coupled with the month-long blockade and lack of supplies, have put half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centres out of operation, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the UN Security Council on 10 November.

Israel justifies these attacks by claiming that members of the Hamas terrorist organisation are hiding in a network of tunnels through health facilities. While journalistic investigations show the existence of such hiding places, according to international humanitarian law, health facilities and health professionals must be actively protected from hostilities, and under no circumstances targeted.

“The world cannot remain silent as hospitals […] are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair”.

As the WHO denounces in a strong statement issued on Sunday 12 November, “attacks on medical facilities and civilians are unacceptable and constitute a violation of international human rights and humanitarian law and conventions”. For this reason, the World Health Organisation insists that they “cannot be condoned”, because “the right to seek medical assistance should never be denied, especially in times of crisis”. “The world cannot remain silent while hospitals, which should be safe havens, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair,” the statement concludes.

Similarly, the United Nations and organisations such as Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children warn that the blockade of humanitarian aid and the cutting off of supplies of food, water, medicines, electricity and fuel could constitute violations of international humanitarian law. Beyond military attacks, the blockade of supplies has brought Gazan hospitals to the brink of collapse, as reported by Palestinian health authorities and humanitarian organisations on the ground. In this context, the United Nations, the WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children and countries such as Spain and France are calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

22 Palestinian hospitals affected by military attacks

More than 230 health facilities were among the targets hit by Israeli bombs, killing more than 520 people. According to the WHO, most of those killed and injured in the attacks on health facilities were internally displaced persons and refugees. In addition, the 100 or so Israeli attacks have left 459 people injured, including 37 health workers. In terms of equipment, the IDF offensive has damaged 39 health service points, including 22 hospitals, and affected 31 ambulances.

Infographic produced by the World Health Organisation’s team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, showing attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip from 07-10 to 04-11.

Al Shifa Hospital siege: “No one can get in or out”

The latest reports point to an intensification of attacks in the vicinity of numerous Palestinian hospitals in recent days, particularly at Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Rantisi Naser Paediatric Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital and others in Gaza City and northern Gaza, “killing many, including children,” the WHO denounces. “Intense hostilities surrounding several hospitals in northern Gaza are preventing safe access for health workers, the wounded and other patients,” continues the statement issued by the WHO on 12 November in the afternoon.

On the same Sunday 12 November, the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health informed the WHO about the serious situation in Al Shifa Hospital, warning that there are still 600-650 patients inside, some 200-500 health workers and approximately 1500 internally displaced persons, with a lack of power, water and food. This situation puts the lives of all these people at immediate risk, while there is no safe passage outside the hospital, not even for ambulances.

“No one can get in or out and the hospital is unable to provide outside medical support because the hospital is surrounded. Some people were shot through the windows, so we have to move patients to the corridors,” the Gazan Ministry of Health denounced. According to information provided to the WHO by the Gazan authorities, 45 patients were unable to access dialysis treatments, and 37 premature babies had to be relocated to an operating room without incubators, although health workers tried to warm the room, but three died. Meanwhile, “around 100 corpses are decomposing at the entrance of the hospital, but health workers cannot go outside to bury them,” they complain.

More than a month of attacks on health targets

The attack on the parking lot of the Arab Al Ahli Hospital on 17 October was the bloodiest, killing 471 people and wounding 342, according to Gaza’s health ministry, while Western intelligence agencies believe the figures are considerably lower and visual investigations point to more like a hundred deaths, although no number has been verified, reports the New York Times. The bombing has been “strongly” condemned by the WHO, which notes that “the hospital was operational, with patients, health and care donors, and internally displaced persons taking shelter”.

The hospital was one of 20 hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip that received evacuation orders from the Israeli military, but according to the WHO, the evacuation order was “impossible to carry out given the ongoing insecurity, the critical condition of many patients, and the lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity and alternative shelter for the displaced”. The authorship of the attack has not yet been clarified, but visual investigations by media outlets such as the New York Times and Al Jazeera cast doubt on one of the most widely used pieces of evidence arguing that the explosion was caused by an errant Palestinian missile.

Patients under siege and supplies depleted

Beyond the direct deaths and injuries caused by these attacks, the military offensive and the blockade of water, medical and fuel supplies and connectivity cuts in Gaza are pushing Gazan hospitals and health centres to their limits.

The need for humanitarian aid is imperative. The Head of Nursing at Gaza’s Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital, Khalil Al-Degran, warns that “more medicine, food, water and fuel are desperately needed to save lives”. As he explained to the WHO team in the occupied Palestinian territories on 29 October, “we cannot save all the victims of the shelling, there is a deep crisis in the hospital […] and if humanitarian aid does not come in, the hospital will turn into a morgue”.

According to the WHO, 45% of essential medicines had less than a month’s supply before 7 October, including antibiotics to treat infections, medicines to prevent heart disease and stroke, chemotherapy for cancer patients, insulin for diabetic patients, and medical supplies for surgery and dialysis.

“The situation in the hospitals is catastrophic and nightmarish”.

All these figures translate into despair, death and pain on the ground. According to David Cantero Pérez, general coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, “the situation in the hospitals is catastrophic and Dantesque, as in the case of one of our surgeons performing an amputation with partial sedation on a child on the floor, in front of his mother and sister”. “This case is a good illustration of the situation in the hospitals, which are on the verge of collapse,” Cantero explained at a press conference in Jerusalem on Monday 6 November.

 From left to right: David Cantero Pérez, general coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Raúl Incertis, an anaesthetist and MSF worker from Valencia who managed to leave the Strip after three weeks of being trapped, during the press conference on 6 November.

Similarly, Raúl Incertis, a Valencian anaesthetist and MSF aid worker from Valencia, describes how “after the order given by Israel to move south, many of the health workers went to the hospitals to continue working, running great danger when they moved to the health centres, working very long shifts for 5 or 7 days without being able to leave the hospital”. Incentis, who had arrived in Gaza on 1 October to work in an orthopaedic and reconstructive surgery programme and managed to leave the Strip after three weeks trapped, explains how “when they were finally able to leave the hospital they went to see their families, if they existed, as many colleagues lost their homes and many relatives, like the MSF nurse who, while she was working, had her house bombed and her whole family died”.

Cantero, who has been working with MSF in the Occupied Palestinian Territories for years, stressed the need to put these events in context: “The Strip has been suffering a total blockade by land, sea and air for the past 16 years, and between 70 and 80% of its population was already living below the poverty line, dependent on external aid. It adds: “To this base we must add four weeks of continuous indiscriminate shelling and the massive displacement of the civilian population of around 1.5 thousand displaced persons”.

UN, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children call for immediate ceasefire

In response, UN Secretary-General António Guterres, UN agencies such as UNICEF, WHO and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as international bodies such as Save the Children have again called “for the parties to respect all their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law” as well as “the immediate and unconditional release of all civilians held hostage,” in a joint statement.

The international president of Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr Christos Christou, also called for an immediate ceasefire “so that they can receive medicine and health care”. 

On 7 October 2022, Hamas attacks killed 1.405 people and injured 5,431, according to Israeli authorities. In addition, more than 200 people, including children, were kidnapped and remain hostage to the terrorists.

The Israeli state responded with a total blockade and continued shelling of the Gaza Strip to combat the terrorist organisation and attempt to rescue the hostages. A response that has left more than eleven thousand civilians dead in a month of war and blockade, according to figures from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health, with two-thirds of the victims being women and children.

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EASY

WHO denounces more than 230 Israeli attacks on Palestinian health care

Written by Helena Rodríguez

Al Shifa Hospital siege: “No one can get in or out”.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that in the last 36 days, there have been at least 137 attacks on medical facilities in Gaza, resulting in 521 people killed and 686 injured, including 16 health workers killed and 38 wounded. These incidents occurred between 7 October and 12 November. In addition, in the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a whole, more than 230 attacks have been recorded, including 96 attacks in Cisjordania from 7 to 24 October.

Due to these military attacks, coupled with a month-long blockade and supply shortages, half of Gaza’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centres are now out of service, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus reported to the UN Security Council on 10 November.

Israel justifies these attacks by claiming that members of the Hamas terrorist organisation are hiding in a network of tunnels through medical facilities. Although journalistic investigations have proven the existence of such hideouts, according to international humanitarian law, health facilities and health professionals must be actively protected from conflict and under no circumstances be targeted.

“The world cannot remain silent as hospitals […] are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair.”

The WHO said last Sunday that attacks on hospitals and civilian sites are wrong and break international rules. They are adamant that this is not right and should not be allowed, especially when people need medical help during crises. The statement says the world should not stand by while hospitals, which should be safe places, become scenes of death and despair.

In addition, the United Nations and groups such as Doctors Without Borders and Save the Children say that blocking the entry of humanitarian aid and cutting off such things as food, water, medicine, electricity and gasoline could be against international rules. Not only the military attacks, but also the blockade of supplies, are causing hospitals in Gaza to nearly collapse, say Palestinian health authorities and humanitarian groups there. That is why the UN, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Save the Children and countries such as Spain and France want the attacks to stop and a humanitarian ceasefire to take place immediately.

22 Palestinian hospitals affected by military attacks

More than 230 health facilities are among the targets hit by Israeli bombs, killing more than 520 people. According to the WHO, most of those killed and injured in the attacks on health facilities were internally displaced persons and refugees. In addition, the 100 or so Israeli attacks have left 459 people injured, including 37 health workers. In terms of equipment, the IDF offensive has damaged 39 health service points, including 22 hospitals, and affected 31 ambulances.

Infographic produced by the World Health Organisation’s team in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, showing attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip from 07-10 to 04-11.

     

Al Shifa Hospital under siege: “No one can get in or out”.

In recent days, there have been more attacks near several hospitals in Gaza, including Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Rantisi Naser Paediatric Hospital and others. The WHO says this is killing many people, including children. The situation is so intense around some hospitals in northern Gaza that medical staff, the wounded and other patients cannot safely access them, the WHO said in a statement on 12 November.

On the same Sunday, the Gaza Ministry of Health, which is controlled by Hamas, told the WHO that the situation at Al Shifa Hospital is serious. There are about 600-650 patients, 200-500 health workers, and approximately 1500 internally displaced persons. In addition, there is a lack of power, water and food. This puts the lives of all these people at risk, as there is no safe way out of the hospital, not even for ambulances.

“The hospital is surrounded, no one can get in or out. So the hospital can’t help the people outside”. The Ministry of Health in Gaza says some people were wounded by gunfire through the windows. In order to take care of the patients, they are moving them into the corridors.

According to information provided by the Gaza authorities to the WHO, 45 patients were unable to receive dialysis and 37 premature babies had to be taken to an operating theatre without incubators. Although health workers tried to keep the room warm, three babies died. In addition, about 100 bodies are outside the hospital decomposing, but medical staff cannot get out to bury them. The situation is very difficult.

More than a month of attacks on health targets

The attack on the car park of Al Ahli Arab Hospital on 17 October was very serious, according to reports from the Gaza Ministry of Health. They say 471 people were killed and 342 injured. However, Western intelligence agencies believe the figures are much lower, around a hundred deaths, according to visual investigations. Although there are no confirmed numbers, according to the New York Times.

The WHO strongly condemned the bombing, saying the hospital was in operation with patients, medical staff and internally displaced persons seeking shelter. The Israeli army ordered the evacuation of 20 hospitals in the northern Gaza Strip, but according to the WHO, the evacuation was “impossible” due to insecurity, the critical condition of many patients and the lack of ambulances, staff and places for them to take shelter.

We still do not know who was responsible for the attack, but visual investigations by media outlets such as the New York Times and Al Jazeera question one of the most widely used pieces of evidence that it was a misdirected Palestinian missile. The situation is complicated.

Patients under siege and supplies running low

In addition to those injured and killed by these attacks, the situation in Gaza is complicated. Military action and the lack of water, medicine and fuel, along with communication cuts, are stretching Gaza’s hospitals to the limit.

The need for help is urgent. The Head of Nursing at Shuhada Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza, Khalil Al-Degran, says they need more medicine, food, water and fuel to save lives. In a meeting with the WHO team on 29 October, he warned that if humanitarian aid does not arrive, the hospital could become a morgue.

According to the WHO, 45 per cent of essential medicines had less than a month’s supply before 7 October. This includes antibiotics, heart medicines, chemotherapy, insulin and medical supplies needed for surgery and dialysis. The situation is critical.

“The situation in the hospitals is catastrophic and nightmarish”.

All these figures mean that the situation is very bad, with a lot of despair, death and suffering. David Cantero Pérez, coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Palestinian Territories, described how bad the hospitals are. He recounted the case of a surgeon who had to amputate a child’s leg on the floor, under partial sedation, right in front of his mother and sister. Cantero said this situation represents what is happening in hospitals, which are on the verge of collapse.

From left to right: David Cantero Pérez, general coordinator of Médecins Sans Frontières in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Raúl Incertis, an anaesthetist and MSF worker from Valencia who managed to leave the Strip after three weeks of being trapped, during the press conference on 6 November.

Raul Incertis, an MSF anaesthetist, says that after the Israeli displacement order, many health workers went to the hospitals, putting themselves at great risk to work long days of 5 or 7 days without being able to leave the hospital. Incertis, who was in Gaza for three weeks before he managed to leave, explained how some workers, at the end of their shift, went to see their families, if they still had homes, as many lost their homes and families during the bombing.

Cantero, who has been working with MSF in Palestine for a long time, points out that the Strip has been under total blockade for the past 16 years, with 70-80% of the population living in poverty and dependent on external aid. In addition, he points out that, in these four weeks of bombardment and massive displacement, around 1,500 people have had to leave their homes. The situation is really difficult.

UN, WHO, Médecins Sans Frontières and Save the Children call for immediate ceasefire

With this complicated situation, important leaders such as António Guterres of the United Nations, along with organisations such as UNICEF, WHO and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as international groups such as Save the Children, have again called on all parties to respect the rules of international humanitarian and human rights law. They are also calling for the immediate release of all civilians being held hostage. They said this in a joint statement.

The president of Médecins Sans Frontières, Dr Christos Christou, has urgently called for a ceasefire so that people can receive medicine and medical care.

On 7 October 2022, according to Israeli authorities, Hamas attacks resulted in the deaths of 1,405 people and left 5,431 injured. In addition, more than two hundred people, including children, were kidnapped and are still being held hostage by the terrorists.

In response, Israel completely blockaded and constantly shelled the Gaza Strip to confront the terrorist organisation and try to rescue the hostages. But this response has had serious consequences, with more than eleven thousand civilians killed in a month of war and blockade, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Ministry of Health. Two thirds of the victims are women and children. The situation is very difficult and affects many innocent people.

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