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Attacks on health care in war zones up 25%, NGOs say

May 22, 2024 at 12:29 pm

Damaged parts of Emel Hospital are seen as it has resumed services following halting activities due to Israeli attacks on Khan Younis, Gaza on May 18, 2024 [Hani Alshaer – Anadolu Agency]

Attacks on medics and health facilities in war zones jumped in 2023 to the highest level since records began 11 years ago, a group of non-governmental organisations said today, with nearly half attributed to state forces, according to Reuters.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents of violence or obstructions including arrests, killings and kidnappings of doctors and strikes across hospitals in 30 conflicts including Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan.

That is up by about a quarter compared with 2022.

Unlike the World Health Organisation (WHO) which also documents attacks on healthcare, the group apportions responsibility and said governments were to blame for nearly half of the attacks.

Len Rubenstein, chair of the coalition and a Johns Hopkins University professor, called for “far more assertive action to end the scourge of violence against health care,” asking governments to cease arms transfers to perpetrators and press prosecutors to hold them accountable.

The group uses open source data and partner contributions and cross checks to ensure no double counting.

The coalition attributed 489 incidents in Gaza last year to Israeli occupation forces, including medic deaths or injuries and strikes or raids on hospitals. No responsibility had been established in seven other cases, including the bombing of the Al-Ahli Hospital on 17 October 2023, it said.

Israel has repeatedly besieged and attacked hospitals in Gaza. According to the European Union, 31 out of 36 hospitals in Gaza have been damaged or destroyed since 7 October, with many no longer able to function including the enclave’s largest medical facility Al-Shifa Medical Complex.

READ: WHO chief voices concern over safety of patients, staff in Gaza Al-Awda Hospital