Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday called for an investigation into Israel’s attacks on hospitals, ambulances, and medical personnel in Gaza, labeling them as possible war crimes. The group also urged the government in West Jerusalem to cease the strikes immediately.
According to HRW, Israel’s attacks on healthcare infrastructure in Gaza are “apparently unlawful” and are only serving to further deteriorate the already fragile healthcare system in the region. HRW disputed Israel’s accusations of Hamas using hospitals as a shield, stating that there is no evidence to justify depriving hospitals and ambulances of their protected status under international humanitarian law.
Dr. A. Kayum Ahmed, HRW’s special adviser on the right to health, emphasized the grave impact of the strikes on hospitals, which have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people and placed many patients at risk due to the inability to receive proper medical care. The Gaza healthcare system was already in a vulnerable state, having been severely affected by an unlawful blockade. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that 137 attacks on healthcare in Gaza have resulted in the deaths of at least 521 people, including 16 medical workers, as of November 12. Additionally, two-thirds of primary care facilities and half of all hospitals in the enclaves were non-functional as of November 10, despite facing unprecedented numbers of severely injured patients.
The ongoing conflict has taken a significant toll on the Palestinian population, with the total death toll in the enclave surpassing 11,000 since Israel declared war on Hamas. The conflict was sparked by Hamas’s lethal incursion into nearby Israeli settlements, resulting in approximately 1,200 deaths.
In addition to the attacks on hospitals and ambulances, Israel has cut off Gaza’s supply of water and electricity, further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis in the region. Local hospitals are reported to be running out of critical supplies and basic equipment, forcing doctors to resort to using vinegar as an antiseptic.
HRW has called on the Israeli government to immediately cease its unlawful attacks on civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and ambulances, as well as the total blockade of the Gaza Strip. The group labeled the blockade as the war crime of collective punishment. HRW also called upon Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups to take all feasible precautions to protect civilians from the effects of attacks and refrain from using civilians as human shields.
The group has also urged for an investigation into the IDF attacks on Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure and has called for the International Criminal Court (ICC) to become involved, given its jurisdiction over the occupied Palestinian territories.
Furthermore, HRW has called on the US, UK, Canada, Germany, and other countries to suspend military assistance and arms sales to Israel as long as its forces continue to commit widespread, serious abuses amounting to war crimes against Palestinian civilians with impunity. This appeal underscores the international community’s heightened concern over the escalating conflict and its devastating impact on civilians in the region.