Gaza hospital attack: WHO condemns deadly strike 

Agence France-Presse October 18,2023 - 06:37 AM

Gaza hospital attack

People gather around bodies of Palestinians killed in a strike on the Ahli Arab hospital in central Gaza after they were transported to Al-Shifa hospital, on October 17, 2023. A strike on a hospital compound in the Gaza Strip killed at least was blamed by officials in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory on October 17, sparking widespread condemnation and fury. But Israel’s army blamed a rocket misfired by militants in Gaza. | Photo by Dawood NEMER / AFP

Geneva, Switzerland—The World Health Organization (WHO) condemned the deadly strike Tuesday on a Gaza hospital and demanded the immediate protection of civilians and health care in the strip.

“WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital,” the UN health agency said in a statement.

“The hospital was operational, with patients, health- and care-givers, and internally-displaced people sheltering there. Early reports indicate hundreds of fatalities and injuries.”

READ MORE: One million Gazans flee as Israel readies for ground attack

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory said Israeli air strikes on the hospital compound sheltering displaced people had killed at least 200 people.

The Israeli army said the strike was a rocket misfired by the Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad.

WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said any hit on health care was a violation of international law.

“The attribution and causation of that, it’s impossible for WHO to be able to determine,” he told a press conference. “That’s for others.”

However, the health facilities in Gaza “are well identified, everyone knows where they are and they need to be deconflicted and protected. Any violation of that has got to be condemned”, he said.

Stop Gaza attacks

Israel has been bombing targets in Gaza since Hamas militants from the territory attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering a war which has left thousands of dead on both sides.

The WHO called for the bombardment of Gaza to stop and for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to be opened to allow aid into the besieged and blockaded enclave.

Ryan ruled out the possibility of air dropping aid into the Gaza Strip.

“The volume of material one can deliver in an air drop is so much lower than what can be delivered by trucks and overland,” he explained.

“The safest and most effective way to get aid to the people of Gaza right now is the Rafah crossing.”

However, even if the border opened, “the conditions do not exist right now inside Gaza to bring aid in and deliver it safely. There must be a cessation of bombing,” Ryan said.

“This cannot wait,” he said, adding: “Every second we wait, we lose lives.

“The violence on all sides has to stop.”

Evacuation ‘impossible’ 

Israel’s army has told people in the north of the Gaza Strip — nearly half of its 2.4-million population — to head south to safety, ahead of an expected ground offensive.

The Al Ahli Arab hospital was one of 20 in northern Gaza facing evacuation orders, the WHO said.

“The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced,” it said.

“WHO calls for the immediate active protection of civilians and health care. Evacuation orders must be reversed.”

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TAGS: conflict, Gaza, hospital, Israel, Palestinians, WHO

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