WHO warns of increasing Israeli violence against West Bank medical staff and hospitals

Middle East Monitor  /  March 29, 2023

The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a warning about the increasing number of Israeli attacks against medical staff in hospitals and other medical institutions in the occupied West Bank last month. The warning was made in the WHO’s monthly Health Access Report of the occupied Palestinian territory.

The international body documented 47 such attacks in the first two months of 2023. These included 37 incidents involving obstruction to the delivery of urgent health care following Israeli raids in the Palestinian cities of Jenin and Nablus, and the village of Huwara. It also reported 21 incidents involving acts of physical violence towards health care providers, who were targeted with live ammunition that prevented the provision of first aid and evacuation of injured patients, some of whom died as a result.

According to the report, 68 per cent of recorded attacks were in the district of Nablus. Other areas affected were Hebron, Jericho, Jenin, Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

The WHO included the testimony of Ahmad in the report. He is a health worker who has been working for the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) for 26 years.

“On 22 February during the military raid on Nablus, I was in one of the nine PRCS ambulances that were prevented from entering the Old City to evacuate people who had been severely injured,” he explained. “We were told that there was no coordination with Israeli forces for the ambulances to enter, so we decided to continue by foot at our own risk.”

One of the teams went to treat a 2-year-old child who had a heart condition and was suffering from tear gas inhalation. “After they reached the patient’s house, they were stuck inside for two hours before they could coordinate to transfer the child to hospital. In another case, a team of four paramedics had just left their ambulance to evacuate an injured person when they were targeted directly with rubber-coated bullets. The team managed to get the injured person to the ambulance without being hit.”

He added that on the same day another ambulance was targeted with rubber bullets and yet another was hit by an Israeli military vehicle. “The body of the ambulance was damaged.”

Violence has escalated across the occupied Palestinian territories in recent weeks, amid repeated Israeli military raids into Palestinian towns and cities. Dozens of Israeli settlers attacked Huwara last month and carried out arson attacks on several Palestinian homes and vehicles, burning them to the ground. Palestinian aid worker Sameh Aktash was killed by the settlers during the attack, and many others were wounded.