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Doctors Under Fire…

May 13, 2009

“There are people right next to the Red Crescent Hospital bleeding to death.  We cannot get to them as the Israelis shoot at us.” –Palestinian medic

 According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 13 medical personnel have been killed and 22 injured while on duty since 27 December 2008, the beginning of Operation Cast Lead.[1]  In addition to that, 16 ambulances have been damaged through direct and indirect shelling.  Because of the attacks on ambulances, the medical staff in Gaza is afraid to go to the areas where they are needed most.[2]  Many times, the medical staff has been unable to reach places where there were dead, injured and trapped people because of heavy fighting and Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on medical personnel.

 On January 12, a doctor and his medical staff were treating injuries in a house in Jabaliya.  While the medical staff waited outside to evacuate the injured, an Israeli air strike hit the house.  The doctor was killed and 3 of the medical staff were wounded in the attack.[3] 

According to International Humanitarian Law, the evacuation and safe passage of ambulances and health workers are fundamental, and should be facilitated at all times without delay or discrimination.[4]

 As well as indiscriminate attacks on ambulances and medical staff in the field, according to the World Health Organization, over 21 medical facilities were damaged during Operation Cast Lead.[5]  “The situation for hospitals, medical workers, and the injured in Gaza is alarming and deteriorating.  Hospitals must be protected and remain neutral areas under any circumstances.  Civilians and the injured must have access to medical care,” said Max Gaylard of the UN.

 On January 15, more than 500 people sought refuge in the Al Quds Palestinian Red Crescent Society Hospital.[6]  A few hours later, the Israeli military began shelling the area.  The hospital was hit, and soon afterwards a fire broke out which put all of the patients, staff and refugees at risk. 

 Because of situations such as these and the overall lack of security for medical personnel, the ICRC and Palestinian Red Crescent Society condemn the fact that International Humanitarian Laws are being ignored by the Israeli military and the “wounded people have been abandoned and left to suffer alone, unable to reach hospitals and inaccessible to ambulances and medical workers.”[7]

 

[1] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 16 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [2] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 15 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [3] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 12 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [4] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 15 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [5] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 16 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [6] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 15 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

 [7] UN: OCHA. “Field Update on Gaza from the Humanitarian Coordinator.” 10 January 2009. OCHA Daily Reports on Gaza-UN.

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