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Israeli campaign endangers med staff & patients

Israeli campaign might endanger medical staff and patients in Gaza

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon the Israeli army to instruct its soldiers to act in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law in all their actions in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), and in particular in regards to the ill and medical staff. The organization is concerned due the fact that hospitals and ambulances in the Gaza strip have been fire upon in the current military operation in the northern section of the strip, in addition to many similar incidents in previous operation in the oPt, and due to the Israeli claims in regards to the pictures taken by an Israeli drone of a UN vehicle. The Israelis claim that the pictures show Palestinians loading a rocket into the vehicles- the UN has denied these allegations and has said that the object seen is a stretcher. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel awaits the results of the UN investigation which is under way.

The manner in which the Israelis conducted their campaign regarding the pictures may endanger patients and medical staff, since soldiers are now more likely to assume that medical vehicles are actually enemy vehicles. The Israelis conducted a public campaign regarding the matter, in which the respectable name of medical vehicles in the oPt is smeared, without making certain that their soldiers are aware of how to treat medical staff and patients in accordance with International Law at all times and under all circumstances. The Israelis did not use cautious language in their campaign, as they should have being that the incident had not been fully investigated.

Freedom of movement in the Gaza Strip for all is severely limited. This negatively affects the health and lives of Palestinian residents and hampers the ability of medical teams to work. The added campaign conducted might only serve to worsen the already unacceptable health situation.

In addition, it seems that the Israelis acted in haste in declaring the object seen in the film a rocket and currently they seem to be slowly retracting their claims. They declared speculation as fact and did not leave any room for the possibility of error. Even had the claims been true the campaign was conducted in an improper manner and one that might harm the health and lives of the Palestinian civilian population and lead to increased aggressive behavior towards humanitarian and medical staff and patients. The campaign seems especially erroneous in the event that the claims are not true.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has publicly condemned in the use of medical vehicles for military activity on both sides and continues to forcefully object to such action. Regardless of the outcome of the investigation in this case, both sides must make certain to never use medical vehicles for anything other than their medical purposes. Israel must immediately issue orders and instructions to its soldiers to ensure the lives and safety of the civilian population and especially the ill, pregnant women and medical teams. This is an important way to at least partially change the deplorable current health situation in the oPt, until the violence and occupation come to an end.

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