ResourcesPress Release

Staggering Levels of Violence Against Health Workers in Gaza Warrant Investigation and Accountability: PHR

Nearly 1,000 reported attacks on health care workers, facilities, and other infrastructure in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) since October 7 warrant immediate investigations and accountability, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said today.  

The World Health Organization (WHO), a United Nations agency, reports 804 attacks on health care in OPT since October 7. Insecurity Insight, a civil society research organization and PHR’s partner in the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, reports 994 attacks on health care in OPT, including 766 attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip during approximately the same period.  

Amid this staggering wave of violence against health care, recent reports by the BBC and The New Humanitarian of Israeli forces allegedly abusing detained medics from Nasser Hospital in Gaza – including through beatings and forced nudity – are extremely disturbing. If confirmed, these acts could constitute torture. They would also represent a broader assault on the patients and communities who desperately depend on these health workers for lifesaving care during this humanitarian catastrophe. There is no justification for any party to the conflict to engage in torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.  

“Health workers and patients are under fire in Gaza, as the health system has endured unthinkable levels of violence over the past five plus months,” said Houssam al-Nahhas, MD, MPH, Middle East and North Africa (MENA) researcher at PHR. “Medical personnel and facilities are protected under international law, yet this foundational norm is being demolished in Gaza. Israeli forces must abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law. All combatants must respect the paramount neutrality of medical facilities, adhering to international law. Health workers in Gaza must be safe to do their jobs and save lives. All perpetrators must be held to account and health care must never be a target.” 

“We also know from conflicts around the globe that attacks on health care have not only short-term consequences, but profound long-term impacts on patients, providers, and communities writ large,” added Dr. Al-Nahhas. “The United Nations Security Council also pledged to safeguard health care in conflict zones through its landmark Resolution 2286 passed in 2016. The UN Security Council is failing to stand by these articulated principles in Gaza and in other conflict settings around the world, where hospitals have been turned from places of healing into death traps.” 

“PHR calls for an immediate, impartial, independent investigation into the pattern of attacks on health care in the OPT by Israeli forces, as well as into these specific harrowing reports of abuses against Nasser Hospital staff reported by BBC and The New Humanitarian,” said Dr. al-Nahhas. “No matter the context, there must always be full accountability for cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment and torture. Under international law, atrocities by one side do not justify atrocities by the other.”

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

Get Updates from PHR