An urgent plea to all sides in the continuing war in Gaza to stop the attacks on hospitals, ambulances, physicians and health care personnel has been made by the World Medical Association.
Concerned by fresh reports of assaults on Red Cross vehicles and hospitals, the WMA has expressed alarm that the targeting of health care facilities and personnel, which it condemned in Syria, has now spread to the Gaza Strip.
Dr. Mukesh Haikerwal, Chair of the WMA, said: ‘As we have said on many many occasions during the violence throughout the Middle East, respect for and protection of health services is one of the core values of international humanitarian law and the human right to health. It is unacceptable that health personnel and facilities are ever regarded as legitimate targets. So we unreservedly condemn those who are abusing health facilities by using them as shelters for soldiers or weapons. Anyone who allows attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities or abuses them for military purposes, causing suffering to patients, should be held accountable for grave human rights abuses.
‘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.
‘We denounce all attacks on physicians, health care staff, medical facilities and patients or their abuse as military shelters or “human shields”. Every time a hospital is attacked or a physician is killed, the delivery of health care is damaged, often destroyed altogether and patients suffer. And it is the poorest and most marginalized parts of the community that tend to be the hardest hit.’