Geneva, 18 October 2023 (TDI): The World Health Organization (WHO) expressed its strong condemnation of the assault on Al Ahli Arab Hospital located in the northern region of the Gaza Strip.
Regrettably, this hospital was in operation at the time of the attack, housing patients, healthcare providers, and internally displaced individuals. Initial reports have sadly indicated a significant number of casualties, both fatalities and injuries.
Furthermore, this hospital was among 20 medical facilities in the northern Gaza Strip facing evacuation orders issued by the Israeli military.
However, the actual execution of these evacuation orders has proven unfeasible due to the prevailing insecurity, the critical condition of many patients, a shortage of ambulances, limited staff, insufficient health system bed capacity, and a lack of alternative shelter for the displaced population.
WHO urgently calls for the active protection of civilians and healthcare facilities, emphasizing the necessity to rescind the evacuation orders.
Full adherence to international humanitarian law is imperative, signifying that healthcare should be actively safeguarded and never subjected to deliberate targeting.
Dr. Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, underscores the need for cessation of violence from all sides.
Additionally, the Secretary-General of WHO, António Guterres, strongly condemned the recent strike on Al Ahli Anglican Episcopal Hospital in Gaza, where preliminary reports indicate a substantial loss of life and numerous injuries, including women and children.
He also condemned an earlier attack on a UNRWA school in the Al-Maghazi refugee camp, resulting in at least six fatalities. The Secretary-General extended heartfelt condolences to the affected families and wishes for the swift recovery of those injured.
It is imperative to reiterate that hospitals, clinics, medical personnel, and UN premises are explicitly protected under international law.
United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, took to Twitter to express his vehement condemnation of the heinous attack on the Baptist Hospital in Gaza City.
He extends his deepest sympathies to the victims’ families and emphasizes the unacceptable nature of attacks against civilians.
Wennesland underscores the special protection afforded to hospitals, medical facilities, personnel, and the urgent need to halt the horror and violence.
“I find it difficult to express my feelings. Last night, a devastating attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City led to the tragic deaths of hundreds, which included patients, healthcare professionals, and families seeking refuge in and around the hospital.
Once again, the most vulnerable among us have borne the brunt of this heart-wrenching tragedy. Such actions are categorically unacceptable.
Earlier in the day, another tragic incident occurred when a UNRWA school in the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the middle of Gaza was hit, resulting in the loss of at least six lives. This school had been a sanctuary for approximately 4,000 individuals seeking refuge.
Hospitals are sanctuaries and must be protected at all costs.
Although we have yet to fully grasp the scale of this devastating event, one thing is abundantly clear – the cycle of violence and the loss of life must cease immediately.
Every nation with influence must employ all available means to end this horrifying situation.
Safeguarding civilians and ensuring the swift delivery of humanitarian aid to those in desperate need is of utmost importance. Accountability must be pursued for those responsible for these actions.”
These sentiments were expressed by Volker Türk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.