Physicians for Human Rights-Israel warns that a continued military assault, particularly against civil infrastructure, will likely cause a rapid deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Gaza.
Yesterday evening (19.11.12), Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-Israel) called on Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, to immediately cease attacks on civil infrastructure in Gaza, whether direct or indirect, and to ensure the safety of medical centers and personnel. PHR-Israel also called on Israeli authorities to enable safe access for infrastructure repair.
Since the beginning of the most recent round of violence, PHR-Israel has received numerous reports documenting a pattern of damage to civil infrastructure throughout the Gaza Strip.
Several worrisome sentiments have been expressed over the past few days by Israeli government officials, including a one by the Minister of the Interior, Eli Yishai, who cited the goals of the current military operation as “Returning Gaza to the middle ages,” and called outright for the destruction of water and electric infrastructure, roads, transportation arteries, communication systems and more. Such sentiments raise serious concern that Israeli decision makers intend to harm civilian infrastructure in Gaza, which would likely lead to a humanitarian disaster.
The past few days have seen numerous instances of harm to Gaza’s health infrastructure. PHR-Israel emphasizes that the defense of civilians and injured persons during wartime, as well as the obligation to enable the injured to receive medical treatment and to prevent their further injury within medical facilities, all constitute basic principles of international humanitarian law. Damage to hospitals caused by nearby shelling or aerial attacks endangers the lives of patients and medical staff, violates rules of medical neutrality, and blatantly disregards the special protection status guaranteed to medical personnel in light of their essential life-saving role. Destruction of this sort creates a highly insecure environment for patients for the duration of their medical care. PHR-Israel is deeply concerned that if such damages to health infrastructure continue, medical staff will be seriously impaired in their ability to provide adequate medical care and life-saving treatment.
PHR-Israel stresses that destruction or harm to civilian infrastructure will likely cause a rapid deterioration of humanitarian conditions in Gaza. This concern is magnified due to the weakened state of Gaza’s infrastructure even before the current military action, and the already dire state of Gaza’s health system, which suffers from chronic shortages in medical equipment and drugs due to Israel’s ongoing blockade.
The following reports received by PHR-Israel as of 19.11.12 summarize damage to infrastructure thus far:
Damage to Medical Centers and Medical Personnel:
● A hospital in Khan Younis sustained damage due a nearby shelling. Shrapnel entered the hospital. The damage has impaired the functioning of the hospital, which is currently unable to provide full treatment to its patients.
● An UNWRA medical center in Jabalya was damaged in an aerial attack.
● Al-Quds Hospital in Gaza City sustained damage due to a nearby shelling.
● In northern Gaza, the local clinic in the Tawam neighborhood sustained damage. Two nearby ambulances were also damaged.
● A Red Crescent emergency center in Tel-Elhawa in northern Gaza sustained damage.
● Three ambulances from the Gaza City Ministry of Health’s Emergency Rescue Center, close to the Palestine Stadium, sustained damage.
● Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) clinic in the village of Abu Taima in Khan Younis sustained damaged. As in the entire village, the clinic has no electricity or water, and due to damage to communication infrastructure, has no access to internet or telephone lines. The clinic is relying on fuel supplies that will last only 2-3 days.
According to reports gathered from OCHA UN agency and from field workers, there are also signs of damage to electricity and water infrastructure and schools;
● Damage to two water systems, a well, and two water reservoirs.
● Another water network, which serves 20,000 people in the Nassar area of Rafiah, sustained damage on 18.11.12.
● Two power stations in the Jabalya area were damaged by shelling. Planned power outages are taking place every day for 8-12 hours.
● During the hours when there is no electricity, hospitals must rely on generators, but fuel supplies are dwindling, and are expected to run out in only a few days.
● The village of Abu Taima in Khan Younis, home to 4,000 residents, has been without water, electricity, and communication since 11:00 am on 18.11.12, following damage to its infrastructure.
● According to reports, approximately 25 schools, including three UNWRA schools, have sustained various degrees of damage,