Attacks on Hospitals

Israel's Rewriting of the Law of War

Friday, December 22, 2023
With the Israeli government recently stating that, according to its own calculations, over 65% of deaths from Israeli military operations in Gaza were civilians, time and investigations will tell whether any of that military conduct violated the Geneva Conventions. Another question, however, demands critical attention as well: Whether Israel is promoting an interpretation of international humanitarian law that undermines the Conventions’ values and subverts their rules. That might explain some of the outcomes we are seeing on the ground. Despite couching its explanations in humanitarian law’s language of proportionality and minimization of harm, Israel has asserted a theory of justifiable conduct in war that, contrary to this body of law, elevates claims of military necessity in achieving the war’s aims over protection of civilians, particularly in a just war. The theory harks back to the influential nineteenth-century intellectual and military theorist Francis Lieber, who advanced it around the very time the first Geneva Convention was being developed. It is important to look back at that long-rejected concept of legitimate warfare and to closely trace what Israeli officials have propounded in the current conflict.

Have attacks on healthcare become the new normal? a public health call to action for armed conflicts before it is too late

Wednesday, December 6, 2023
The scale of attacks on healthcare has become more visible and its impact greater in recent armed conflicts in Ukraine, Sudan and Myanmar. In these conflicts, combatants systematically target health facilities and ambulances. We need to ensure that attacks on healthcare do not become the new norm amongst governmental troops and non-State armed groups. There is limited evidence about why and how attacks on healthcare have become “normal” practice amongst many combatants, despite the likely tactical and strategic costs to themselves. We are convinced that the problem now needs to be tackled like any other public health issue by assessing: the scale of the problem; who is the most at risk; identifying risk factors; developing new interventions to prevent the risks or address the issue; and evaluating the effectiveness of these interventions.

Position Paper: The Harming of Medical Personnel and Facilities During the October 7, 2023 Hamas Attacks

Monday, November 27, 2023
One prominent aspect of the attacks carried out by Hamas on October 7, 2023, was the assault on medical personnel and facilities, during which emergency teams were prevented from reaching the wounded, while some of those attempting to provide care were killed. The evidence available to us through media reports and other public sources indicates that these actions must be investigated as war crimes. Given that the armed conflict inside the Gaza Strip is still ongoing, any attacks on medical personnel and facilities and attempts to prevent them from carrying out their duties within this context remain outside the scope of this report - and will be addressed separately. Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI) is currently engaged in protecting health workers and patients in Gaza and does not have immediate access or resources to collect testimonies and carry out adequate inquiries. Therefore, the subject of this report is limited to outlining the violations committed by Hamas on October 7, 2023. In doing so, we separately address attacks on hospitals and clinics and attacks on emergency medical personnel and vehicles.

Correspondence: Attacks on health are war crimes and a public health catastrophe

Sunday, November 12, 2023
The armed conflict in Israel and Gaza has strained the medical systems of both places, particularly in Gaza where at least 40 health-care workers have been killed. The destruction of hospitals and clinics in Gaza, with more than 75 attacks between Oct 7 and Oct 24, 2023, is a tragic echo of both targeted and indiscriminate violence against health care across the globe. The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition reported nearly 2000 incidents of attacks on health care in 2022 globally, and the 2023 trajectory is set to surpass this.

Annual Report Coverage: 2022 was the worst year on record for attacks on health care workers

Saturday, July 29, 2023
In conflict zones around the world, violence and threats against hospitals, health care facilities and their personnel reached a grim milestone in 2022, according to a new report from the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC). It documented 1,989 such incidents last year — a 45% increase over 2021 and the worst total number since the group began tracking the data a decade ago.

Annual Report Coverage - Targeting health care in conflict: the need to end impunity

Saturday, July 29, 2023
On the morning of May 26, a Russian missile destroyed Dnipropetrovsk City Hospital No 14 in Dnipro, Ukraine, killing at least two people and injuring more than 30. Later that same day, the BBC reported that attacks on medical facilities and staff in Sudan might constitute war crimes. As described in a World Report, such attacks continue in Sudan, including most recently the looting and occupation of centres run by Médecins Sans Frontières, denying Sudanese civilians much needed medical care. From the deliberate targeting of hospitals in Syria and the destruction of the health system in Yemen, to the arrest and abduction of doctors in Myanmar and the persecution of health workers and violations of medical neutrality in Iran, the sanctity of the Red Cross and Red Crescent appears to be at a new low. The uncomfortable truth is that attacks against health facilities and staff in conflicts can be committed largely with legal impunity.

Event: Fifth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health, 3-5 April 2023

Wednesday, March 29, 2023
The toll of violence against health on the health workforce: Characteristics, impacts and responses Monday 3 April 2023 15:00-16:30 CEST Moderator: Rohini Haar Speakers: Aula Abbara, Larissa Fast, Naser AlMhawish, Christina Wille Advance registration is required. Visit: #ProtectInvestTogether

She Pays the Highest Price: The Toll of Conflict on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Northwest Syria

Tuesday, March 28, 2023
This report reflects the SRH concerns of those living and working in northwest Syria. It establishes a record upon which policymakers, donors, and health actors, including humanitarian organizations, may rely in addressing the crisis of SRH in northwest Syria. It provides core recommendations for the United Nations Security Council, United Nations member states, donors, health actors, and the coordination architecture. Respondents emphasized that accountability, improved access to health care, greater awareness, and sufficient resources should be prioritized by policymakers and practitioners.

Destruction and Devastation: One Year of Russia’s Assault on Ukraine’s Health Care System

Wednesday, March 22, 2023
This report – a joint undertaking among eyeWitness to Atrocities (eyeWitness), Insecurity Insight, the Media Initiative for Human Rights (MIHR), Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), and the Ukrainian Healthcare Center (UHC) – documents the staggering toll that Russia’s aggression has had on Ukraine’s health care system since February 2022. Using 10 case studies and a joint dataset of attacks, this report shows how Russia appears to be violating international humanitarian law by deliberately and indiscriminately targeting Ukraine’s health care system as part of a broader attack on its civilian population and infrastructure. As the report details, the apparent targeting of the health care system is carried out through a variety of means, including: (1) attacks on health care facilities, (2) attacks on ambulances, (3) destruction of critical health infrastructure and theft of supplies, and (4) assaults, torture, and ill-treatment of health workers, including doctors, nurses, and paramedics.