In recent days, Israel’s bombardment and blockade of essential services to Gaza has continued, dramatically worsening an already horrific humanitarian and health crisis in Palestine. The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza has exceeded 3,300 and Palestinians in Gaza are currently facing a health crisis of catastrophic proportions. As health workers, and a movement committed to health justice, we must do everything we can to end this humanitarian crisis.
Attacks on health facilities: There have been at least 57 attacks on health care facilities during Israel’s bombardment, according to WHO. This was reported even before the strike on al-Ahli Arab Hospital which killed an estimated 500 people and wounded many – including patients, health workers, rescue teams and thousands of displaced Palestinians who had sought refuge at the site. To attack a hospital is an unconscionable, unjustifiable act that is against international law.
- Following a 15-year blockade, an already under-resourced Gazan healthcare system has been severely damaged, and overwhelmed by thousands of casualties.
- In Shifa Hospital, the largest and most central in the Gaza Strip, electricity has run out, leaving neonatal care units running without electricity and ventilators failing.
- At least 28 health workers have been killed, and others have been arrested; ambulances and health facilities have been targeted – hospitals and all medical personnel are protected under international law.
- The UN has stated that 50,000 pregnant people in Gaza are unable to access essential health services or even clean water, with 5,500 people due to give birth this month.
Dehydration: UNRWA fears people are dehydrating to death in Gaza – clean water is running out, as the city’s last seawater desalination plant closes, and UNRWA warns that residents will be exposed to cholera and dysentery.
Food and medical supplies running out: The blockade is preventing humanitarian aid from reaching Gaza – WHO has reported that its relief supplies have been stuck on the border for four days.
Use of White Phosphorus: Human Rights Watch has confirmed Israel’s illegal use of white phosphorus, which burns human skin upon contact. Israel also deployed this against Palestinians in its 2008-9 assault on Gaza.
Mass displacement: Most Palestinians in Gaza are already refugees, displaced by Israel by previous violence. Since the beginning of Israel’s bombardment, 1 million Palestinians have been further displaced.
It is also essential that those kidnapped by Hamas are released and allowed urgent medical attention – and we support the call made by 110 Jewish and Arab health workers, coordinated by Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI), for the immediate release of all Israeli hostages.
Israeli leaders have made unusually explicit statements about the actions committed on Gaza, which, in addition to collective punishment and ethnic cleansing, point to genocidal intent – implying that acts have been “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group” as defined by Article II of the Genocide Convention.
Senior politicians from both major parties in the UK have made statements which appeared to justify Israel’s violations of international law, continuing a long history of UK and wider international community complicity in Israel’s occupation and oppression of Palestinians, including through continued arms sales.
These states now have the power and responsibility to apply the necessary pressure on Israel to end its bombardment and siege on Gaza to avert further health catastrophe and genocide.
As a UK organisation campaigning for a world in which everyone is able to access their human right to health, we call for the UK government to:
- Do all it can to apply pressure on Israel to immediately halt all attacks on Gaza
- Implement an immediate two-way arms embargo on Israel
- Lobby Israel to end its siege, and immediately allow safe corridors for evacuation and for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza to alleviate the worsening health catastrophe
- Work to ensure that Israel guarantees the right of return of those displaced, and recognise the inalienable right of return of all Palestinian refugees
- Respect the right to boycott and abandon its legislation to outlaw Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a non-violent movement which seeks to pressure Israel to comply with international law in the face of decades of inaction by the international community.