Statement Condemning the Targeting of Hospitals, Medical Personnel and Patients in the Gaza Strip, Palestine

Hospitals in Gaza are under unprecedented attack

November 12, 2023 | Gaziantep, Turkey

Independent Doctors Association (IDA) categorically condemns the escalating attacks carried out by Israeli forces on hospitals in Gaza throughout the ongoing war that commenced on October 7th. Hospitals, medical personnel and patients have been subjected to intense hostilities that include direct aerial bombardment and shelling on facilities, shooting at displaced civilians taking refuge inside hospitals, encircling thousands of medical staff and patients by tanks and armed forces, and cutting off essential medical supplies, clean water and fuel required to operate.

At the time of writing, half of the Gaza Strip’s 36 hospitals and two-thirds of its primary health care centers are out of service due to either Israeli bombardment or lack of fuel and medical provisions. In a period of 24 hours alone, Gaza’s largest hospital, Al-Shifa, was attacked five times while thousands of displaced people still remain inside the hospital’s compound with an uncertain fate. Without electricity needed to run incubators, two premature babies have died in Al-Shifa and 37 remain at risk. Countless other key Gazan hospitals in densely populated areas – Al-Quds Hospital, Al-Mahdi Maternity Hospital, Al-Nasr Children’s Hospital, the Indonesian Hospital, Al-Rantisi Children’s Hospital, Al-Awda Hospital – as well as the Gazan Health Ministry itself and humanitarian-marked Palestinian Red Crescent centers have all been targeted in the past 37 days.

Health workers in Gaza are urgently calling for help as Israel conducts its full-blown battle on hospitals, echoing our own appeals as Syrian doctors who once demanded an end to the targeted, deliberate airstrikes on our hospitals in Aleppo, including a pediatrics hospital.

Acts of aggression towards medical facilities and personnel are strictly prohibited under international law and constitute war crimes. Hospitals are entitled to special protection in conflict due to the severe civilian consequences of destroying health services. We are sickened by a statement recently released by the Israeli medical community that encourages and justifies the bombing of hospitals.

As this unprecedented scale of attacks leaves Gaza’s health system all but destroyed, the UN Security Council convened on Friday to address the escalating violence on hospitals, with the WHO Director expressing profound concern and stating ‘’healthcare is on its knees.’’ Yesterday, the Arab League met over an extraordinary summit to unify efforts on Gaza. However, without concerted action by world leaders, the repercussions of impunity in Gaza will undermine protection of civilians worldwide for years to come.

The window for implementing a ceasefire is rapidly closing. This weekend, the management of Al-Shifa Hospital announced the besiegement has led them to take the harrowing decision to turn itself into a mass grave to start burying their dead.

Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa, the head of IDA, stands in solidarity with the plight of medical professionals in Gaza.

‘’The situation in Gaza is beyond imagination. Gaza’s hospitals are operating in total darkness and the Israeli forces are operating in total impunity. We, as Syrian doctors, are all too acquainted with the consequences for the lack of accountability for systematically disregarding international prohibitions. Violations of international law must be prosecuted, or else this will not be the last we witness. There is no justification for bombing hospitals and patients. Israel must cease its attacks on Palestinian hospitals now. We demand the international community to take urgent action to protect them from attack.’’