Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is deeply concerned about the firing of tear gas canisters, stun grenades and bullets by Israeli forces close to the Palestine Medical Complex in Ramallah, the West Bank, in the early hours of Thursday morning. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the incident spread fear and panic among children and elderly patients, and staff were forced to move patients away from areas affected by tear gas.
The use of force so close to patients is of concern as such action can put their health and wellbeing at risk.
Doctors and nurses must be able to work without fear of interruption due to military action either inside hospitals or surrounding areas. It is essential that patients and health workers are protected at all times.
The incident occurred one year to the day since the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2286, condemning attacks on medical facilities in areas of conflict, and calling for perpetrators to be held to account.
The resolution was co-sponsored by more than 80 UN Member States, including Israel and the UK.
Previously, Palestinian medical facilities have been directly affected by raids and attacks which have been met with impunity.
Between October and December 2015, Israeli forces conducted eight separate raids on hospitals, including one on the Al Ahli Hospital in Hebron in which a Palestinian man visiting a patient was shot and killed.
The eroding protection of medical facilities and personnel has become a recurring concern in recent years.
During Israel’s 2014 military offensive on Gaza, 73 hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed, including the total destruction of Gaza’s only rehabilitation hospital, Al Wafa.
45 ambulances were also damaged or destroyed, and 23 medical workers were killed and 78 injured while on duty.
To date, no prosecutions have been achieved through Israel’s internal accountability mechanisms.
MAP has documented these incidents, and the consistent lack of accountability, in a recent briefing paper, ‘Health Under Occupation: Protection for Healthcare’.
The special protected status of medical facilities and personnel demanded by the Fourth Geneva Convention is vital to ensuring that the sick and wounded can be treated safely during conflict and that the provision of healthcare services is ensured once conflict ends. MAP urges governments to take urgent action to support credible investigation into all potential violations against healthcare in the occupied Palestinian territory.