“We are horrified by reports of relentless attacks on Gaza’s hospitals. Patients, including babies, and civilians seeking relief are trapped under attack. It is an affront to wage war around and on hospitals. Those being treated or seeking shelter in hospitals have nowhere else to go. Roads leading to the south are unpassable in vehicles. The harm to patients besieged in hospitals and the lasting effects of depriving the population of major medical facilities in a time of armed conflict may very well be unlawful.
“Medical facilities and personnel exclusively engaged in the treatment of the sick and wounded have special protection under international humanitarian law that must be respected in all circumstances. Failure to do so amounts to a grave breach of international humanitarian law.
“An urgent ceasefire is needed to avoid further loss of innocent lives. All parties must abide by the laws of war to spare all civilians, including the critically ill and injured and those who tend to them.”
Notes to editors:
- According to international humanitarian law, if medical facilities are being misused by armed groups, the onus is on Israel to prove those allegations. Should it attack, Israel must demonstrate military necessity, and adhere to the humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions and spare civilian life.
- Acts that would remove protection afforded to a hospital include its use as a shelter for able-bodied combatants or fugitives, as an arms or ammunition store, as a military observation post, or as a center for liaison with fighting troops according to international humanitarian law.
- The Ministry of Health in Gaza announced that 39 babies in incubators at Al-Shifa Hospital are at risk after generators stopped working.
- Since 7 October, WHO has verified over 250 attacks on health care in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
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