The organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) tried to plan everything last Saturday in order to evacuate members of its staff who were at the end of their tether and their loved ones from the Gaza Strip.
Those responsible for the operation communicated with both parties to the conflict, Hamas and the Israeli army. The 137 people to be evacuated took their places in vehicles displaying the red and white logos of the humanitarian organization.
“The convoy passed several checkpoints, but there were delays at the last one, so the convoy turned back. They were shot at. A family member of an employee was killed,” Joseph Belliveau, general director of MSF Canada, told me on Monday.
The story unfortunately does not end there. The members of the convoy tried to find refuge, notably in a clinic set up by MSF.
On Monday, it was this clinic that was the target of shooting. According to employees on site, a wall was knocked down. The flames devastated another part of the building. Five of the vehicles that were part of the evacuation convoy, parked nearby, were destroyed. Four by the flames. The last one was crushed by a heavy goods vehicle. Witnesses report seeing an Israeli tank in the street.
“All this was done deliberately,” thunders Joseph Belliveau, noting that this is only the latest event in a very long list of attacks against health services since the start of the Israeli response against Hamas in the Gaza Strip after the deadly attacks of October 7.
As of November 20, the World Health Organization (WHO) has documented 164 such attacks against health facilities and personnel in the Palestinian enclave, where 27 of 36 hospitals are no longer functioning.
In Syria or Yemen, we have seen many attacks on health establishments over a long period. But the scale of the attacks that we are seeing in Gaza in a few weeks is unprecedented. And in the eyes of the law of war, these are flagrant crimes!
Joseph Belliveau, Executive Director of Doctors Without Borders Canada
One of the latest attacks recorded concerns the Indonesian hospital in northern Gaza, where hundreds of people, who fled the al-Chifa hospital in recent days, had found asylum. During the night from Sunday to Monday, 12 people were killed there and dozens of others injured, reports the UN agency in a press release that oozes anger. “The world cannot remain silent while these hospitals, which should be shelters, are transformed into scenes of death, devastation and despair,” writes the WHO.
What has the Israeli army responded to the World Health Organization’s complaints about the Indonesian hospital? That she only responded to shots coming from inside.
Last week, the IDF justified taking control of al-Chifa hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, by inviting international media to visit the premises under high surveillance. They were shown shells, Kalashnikovs and a tunnel entrance, claiming that this was evidence that Hamas operates a large command center there and therefore the Israeli army was within its rights to intervene there. . Journalists were not allowed to speak to the hundreds of patients, doctors and other health workers who were there.
The public relations operation was not considered convincing by either the BBC or the magazine The Economistto name just a few.
On Monday, Israeli authorities did it again, releasing images of another tunnel as well as a video showing an Israeli hostage being dragged by Hamas members through what is described as the corridors of al-Chifa.
It is very difficult to verify this information.
But that said, whether they are true or not does not change one thing: international law protects hospitals, the staff there and the patients.
If the hospital loses its protected status because there is evidence that combatants are using it as a base of operations, the armed intervention must be carried out with caution and proportionality in order to cause as little harm as possible to vulnerable people, according to the Committee International Red Cross.
However, this small exception to the rule does not explain why the Doctors Without Borders convoy and its clinic were attacked in recent days. Or why hospitals and clinics in Gaza have been deprived of basic necessities – water, food, fuel, medicine – for more than a month.
At the time of writing, it is being announced that a five-day humanitarian truce could take place soon, allowing the return to Israel of several dozen hostages that Hamas has been holding for more than a month. This respite from the fighting and bombings would also facilitate the arrival of humanitarian aid in the Palestinian enclave.
This is not enough. International law experts must also be deployed to the Gaza Strip to independently investigate growing allegations of war crimes, a request made last week by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights , Volker Turk.
As in Ukraine, investigators must be able to document the events of recent weeks, question witnesses, document violations and abuses, whoever the perpetrators may be.
It is time to rush to the bedside of international law, which is as bad as the hospitals in Gaza.
Gn world Fr