UN warns of disturbing ‘pattern’ of Israeli attacks on medical facilities in Gaza

NEW YORK CITY: The UN Human Rights Office on Thursday expressed deep concern about a raid by Israeli forces on Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, less than a week after a similar assault on Al-Amal hospital in the same city.
The UN officials said such incidents are worrying because they reflect a pattern of assaults by Israeli forces on critical civilian targets.
“The raid appears to be part of a pattern of attacks by Israeli forces striking essential, life-saving civilian infrastructure in Gaza, especially hospitals,” said Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the Human Rights Office.

Israel raided Nasser hospital, the largest still-functioning health care facility in the territory, on Thursday. The assault came after a week-long siege, during which it was cut off from food, fuel and medical supplies. It forced displaced people and the families of medical staff who were sheltering in the hospital to flee, with more than 2,000 arriving in Rafah overnight and others pushing north toward central Gaza.

Shamdasani said Israeli forces reportedly ordered the transfer of all patients from the hospital, including those in intensive care and nursery units, to another facility, exposing them “to grave risks, including the risk of death for the most vulnerable.” She also highlighted reports of army forces targeting those attempting to leave.

“Our office has documented similar raids in Gaza City, North Gaza, Middle Gaza and in Khan Younis, with serious consequences for the safety of patients, medical and other staff, as well as civilians sheltering in these facilities,” Shamdasani added.

Given that nearly 70,000 people have been injured since the conflict in Gaza began in October, she added, and the health care system in the territory is on its knees as a result of attacks on medical facilities and restrictions on deliveries of essential humanitarian supplies, “the impact on civilians is appalling.”

Medical facilities are considered protected infrastructure under international humanitarian law, she reiterated, adding: “They are entitled to special protection and must not be the object of attack nor be used outside their humanitarian function for acts harmful to the enemy.”

Israeli officials alleged that Hamas militants were hiding in Nasser hospital and holding hostages, and the bodies of hostages, there. Hamas dismissed the allegation as “lies.”

Shamdasani said: “(Even) if Israel contends that a medical facility has lost its protection as a result of being used for acts harmful to the Israeli forces, it must nevertheless comply with the principles of precautions and proportionality.

“Furthermore, Israel, as the occupying power, has the duty to ensure and maintain medical facilities and services in all of the occupied territory, including the Gaza Strip.”


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