The evidence that Israel deliberately targeted hospitals and ambulances

Blood-stained gurneys are seen outside the morgue at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia, as members of the Abu Nejim family gather to collect their family members killed in an airstrike on their house on Monday
Blood-stained gurneys are seen outside the morgue at the Kamal Adwan hospital in Beit Lahia, as members of the Abu Nejim family gather to collect their family members killed in an airstrike on their house on Monday
Ian Dunt By

Amnesty International has published evidence that Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) specifically targeted hospitals, health workers and ambulance personnel during the attack on Gaza.

As the ceasefire entered its third day, the human rights organisation published a series of disturbing testimonials by workers on the ground strongly suggesting Israeli forces broke the Fourth Geneva Convention.

"Such attacks are absolutely prohibited by international law and would amount to war crimes," Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa director at Amnesty International said.

"They only add to the already compelling argument that the situation should be referred to the International Criminal Court."

The report comes as MPs lobby David Cameron to recall parliament so there can be a debate on the Gaza situation.

Labour's Yasmin Qureshi, Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott support the move, along with Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams.

"I have never had so many emails and letters from people across all different all communities," Qureshi told the Huffington Post.

"What I find really surprising is David Cameron and many people around him can't even seem to accept that Israel is doing wrong."

Parliament was last recalled in August 2013 so Cameron could seek permission for military action against Syria.

In the Amnesty report, emergency and ambulance service supervisor Jaber Khalil Abu Rumileh describes how women had to flee an attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital in Deir al-Balah with their babies, just minutes after giving birth.

He said:

"While I was working in the emergency unit, I heard a sound of bombing. It shook the hospital – a shelling. It hit the fourth floor, pregnancy and caesarean unit, then there were a few more hits. People were terrified, patients ran out, doctors could not enter and take out injured and killed people. And then as we were trying to calm people and attend to injuries and others, more shelling hit the building. The third floor was hit. It includes other surgery units, the childcare unit and the heart unit. Four people were killed from these hits. One shell went through the eastern wall on this third floor, through the wall in the middle and hit Nurse Eman Abu Jayyab. Her right arm was broken.

"It was chaos. All patients, visitors, people taking shelter at the hospital, nurses, doctors, workers – there were around 30-40 child patients - everyone was panicking. Everyone came down to the ground floor, everyone was scared, and when everyone was downstairs, another shell hit, and the glass down there fell out. The shelling kept on for 30 minutes from beginning to end. Ambulances and ambulance workers were hit when rubble fell down on them outside.

"It was a tragedy for all the pregnant women or those who gave birth. I saw one woman come running with the child she had just given birth to. Some women gave birth during the shelling, the doctors did it on the ground floor, and three women were transferred to other hospitals.

"We called the Red Cross and journalists. When the Red Cross came, we told them what happened. When they went up to see what happened, the hospital was hit again. They stopped their visit and left. Everyone was asking them for protection."

Dr Bashar Murad, director of Palestinian Red Crescent Society's emergency and ambulance unit, said at least two of his ambulance workers had been killed since the fighting started, while 35 had been injured.

The Palestinian Ministry of Health said at least six ambulance workers, and at least 13 other aid workers, have been killed as they attempted to rescue the wounded and collect the dead.

At least 49 doctors, nurses and paramedics have been injured by attacks and at least 33 other aid workers were also injured. At least five hospitals and 34 clinics have been forced to shut down.

"Our ambulances are often targeted although they are clearly marked and display all signs that they are ambulances," Murad said.

"The army should be able to distinguish from the air that what they targeting are ambulances."

The report documents instances in which ambulances with flashing lights were targeted, as were paramedics wearing recognisable fluorescent vests.

An Israeli attack on Gaza's only power plant means hospitals are suffering from fuel and power shortages, as well as inadequate water supply, shortages of drugs and medical equipment.

Mohammad Al-Abadlah, 32, a paramedic who works for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, was killed on 25 July in Qarara by Israeli army gunfire when he was attempting to rescue an injured man stranded in an area controlled by the Israeli military.

Hassan Al-Attal, 40, a colleague who was with him at the time, told Amnesty they had been unable to reach the injured man so they called the Red Cross to contact the IDF and call on it to allow the health workers to pass.

He said:

"They got back to us saying the army says to get out of the car and cross on foot with our flashlights. So, Mohammad said to me: 'Let's go, they agreed that we can go walking and collect the case from them directly'.

"We got out, we crossed about ten to 12 metres and suddenly we were being fired at directly. My colleague screamed and said: 'I've been shot'. The shooting continued everywhere, so I could not pull him away or else I too would have got shot and fallen beside him – so I ran and sat in the ambulance.

"I called the station and told them we had been fired at and Mohammad was injured. The head of the centre came with two ambulances to try and save our colleague. When the colleagues got out to try and take Mohammed, they too were fired at. The head of the centre asked the Red Cross to ask for shooting to stop while we evacuated Mohammad. We brought him but sadly he died."

Amnesty spoke independently to Mohammad Ghazi Al-Hessy, from the second ambulance crew, who confirmed the story.

"I asked the Red Cross to co-ordinate our entry to collect Mohammad. My colleagues and I got out. There were six or seven of us. We put the stretcher next to him and suddenly we were surrounded by very heavy gunfire from the soldiers in the area.

"They were direct shots aimed over our heads, under our feet, so we had to evacuate the area. During that time, Mohammad was bleeding very heavily, he was still alive at that point – his white uniform was completely red. Because of the gunfire we were unable to put him on the stretcher.

"So we ran and called the Red Cross and told them we were being shot at and it would not do. We remained there for ten minutes then the Red Cross called back and told us to let two of us go in and grab him. Two of the colleagues did indeed go back in, put Mohammad on the stretcher and we drove him to Nasser Hospital. He was still alive and breathing. We worked on him at Nasser Hospital, but he died in the intensive care unit."

According to the UN, 1,814 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza attack, 86% of them civilians. More than 9,400 have been injured, many of them seriously.

Amnesty is calling on the British government to end all arms contracts with Israel.

Activists from London Palestine Action were arrested yesterday after they blockaded the entrance to a factory for UAV Engines Limited, a UK registered company owned by Israeli weapons producer Elbit Systems.


Load in comments