Where We Work | Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory

PHR’s work in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory has centered on documenting and raising awareness about human rights violations resulting from the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  

In response to Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7, 2023 and Israel’s assault on Gaza, PHR calls for the immediate and unconditional protection of all civilians, health care professionals, and medical facilities in Israel and Gaza and continues to call on all parties to abide by international human rights and humanitarian law. We continue to call for independent verification and accountability, including for unprecedented attacks on health care workers and facilities.

“International law demands accountability for the innumerable violations in the Israel-Gaza war, and Israeli and Palestinian authorities must cooperate with independent international investigators and invite them to the region to carry out a systematic, impartial and credible documentation.

Sam Zia-Zarifi, PHR Executive Director

In 1988, PHR physicians visited Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank to document the medical consequences of military actions on both Palestinians and Israelis. The subsequent report, “The Casualties of Conflict: Medical Care and Human Rights in the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” found that thousands of Palestinians suffered from both physical abuse and mental illness resulting from unprovoked violence. This included systematic but indiscriminate beatings in Palestinian homes and communities who were not engaged in demonstrations or provocations at the time of the beating, as well as the inappropriate use of tear gas indoors. PHR was unable to see Israeli military hospitals or clinics where military casualties might have been treated, nor Israeli civilian hospitals where civilian casualties might have been treated. A review of published unofficial sources yielded a total of two serious Israeli civilian injuries, one Israeli soldier shot and killed, and 186 minor injuries to Israeli soldiers and police.

PHR’s 1990 report “Health Care in Detention: A Study of Israel’s Treatment of Palestinians” found that Palestinians in Israeli custody often suffered from overcrowded conditions and inadequate health care.  

In 2009 and again in 2014, PHR has called upon the Israeli Defense Force and Palestinian armed factions in Gaza to cease military actions that cause civilian casualties. In 2014, two Palestinian teenagers were shot dead during protests in the West Bank. Despite IDF claims that only rubber bullets were fired, the families maintained that their sons had been killed by live ammunition. At the request of two local human rights organizations, Dr. Nizam Peerwani, PHR’s forensic advisor and a leading U.S. forensic pathologist, flew in to assist in the autopsy. Peerwani’s finding that a live round had caused the death was entered as evidence and used to arrest and charge an IDF soldier with the murder of one of the boys.

The following year, PHR urged the Israeli parliament to reject a proposed bill allowing for the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. The bill, a violation of medical ethics and human rights law, was ultimately passed.

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