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Doctors, hospitals in crosshairs in deadly Gaza conflict

The World Medical Association has issued an urgent plea for an end to attacks on all hospitals, ambulances, physicians and other health workers in the Gaza Strip and surrounding areas.

As the death toll from the conflict soars, WMA Chair Dr Mukesh Haikerwal has expressed alarm at reports that Red Cross vehicles and hospitals are being targeted in the conflict.

“Respect for, and protection of, health services is one of the core values of international humanitarian law and the human right to health,” Dr Haikerwal said. “It is unacceptable that health personnel and facilities are ever regarded as legitimate targets.”

Last week, Gaza’s most sophisticated medical facility, Shifa Hospital, was hit, killing at least 10 people, mostly children.

The Israeli Government and Hamas have accused each other of responsibility for the attack.

The WMA Chair condemned those using hospitals to shelter combatants or store weapons, as well as those who allowed attacks on medical facilities as part of armed conflict.

“It is the duty of all of us in the international health community to speak out to protect the non-discriminatory provision of health care to those in medical need,” Dr Haikerwal said. “We denounce all attacks on physicians, health care staff, medical facilities and patients, or their abuse as military shelters or human shields.”

In addition to the threat from combatants, the Red Cross has also come under attack from civilians.

Last week, its offices in Gaza were ransacked by residents claiming that it had failed to provide assistance in evacuating the dead and wounded.

Adrian Rollins