Recognising the need to protect humanitarian personnel on World Humanitarian Day, health and human rights organisations underline that Israel’s actions during its military assault on Jenin in July 2023 included clear violations of international humanitarian law (IHL), which requires protection for the sick and wounded and for medical teams. During the military assault, Jenin Government Hospital and staff were harmed, the windows of al Amal hospital were damaged by gunfire, and ambulances in Jenin were consistently delayed – all of which negatively impacted the health and well-being of patients. The undersigned health and human rights organisations call for an end to impunity and accountability for Israel’s violations of international law, which come during a particularly deadly year for Palestinians.
On 5 July 2023, the Israeli military fired tear gas canisters at the entrance of the Jenin Government Hospital, near the emergency room (ER). Dr. Muhammad al Abadi, an ER doctor, recalled that “it caused the staff to feel terrible and prevented us from functioning”. It also forced doctors to move around 25 patients from the ER to other departments further inside the hospital, to escape the impact of the tear gas. Live fire was also fired at the hospital walls, and a grenade landed in the hospital yard, lightly injuring three people and causing great distress to patients within. IHL prohibits attacks on medical facilities. While there are uncorroborated Israeli reports that shots were fired from inside the hospital, hospitals can only lose their protected status under IHL after a due warning had been given, naming a reasonable time limit, and only if that warning had remained unheeded. There appear no indications that Israel had done this. Moreover, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, al Amal hospital in Jenin sustained damage, with the widows of the hospital broken by gunfire.
The Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) reported that during the assault two ambulances heading to evacuate the wounded were stopped by Israeli military jeeps, who forced the ambulance drivers to hand over the keys for more than half an hour at a time. In at least one other instance, ambulance drivers reported that military jeeps deliberately bumped into them. As a result of ambulance delays, one woman was forced to deliver her baby at home. Even when ambulances were not stopped by Israeli forces, the damage done to the roads by military bulldozers impeded swift access to the wounded. As a consequence, in at least three cases, patients were forced to access Jenin Government Hospital by private vehicles. The local PRCS station was unable to deal with the vast numbers of the wounded, and requested assistance from nearby stations.
Twelve Palestinians, including five minors, were killed during the Israeli military assault on Jenin and at least 143 were wounded. Roughly 3,500 individuals were internally displaced. Israel’s air strike and ground operation, which, according to UN Special Rapporteurs, may constitute a war crime, comes during a deadly year for Palestinians, with pogroms in the West Bank, an Israeli military assault on Gaza and continued entrenchment of what Palestinian, Israeli and international human rights organisations have concluded is a regime of apartheid.
The deliberate obstruction of ambulances attempting to assist the wounded and the attack on Jenin Government Hospital during Israel’s last military assault is counter to international law. World Humanitarian Day serves as a reminder of the ongoing need to protect humanitarian personnel and the individuals they assist. Israel continuously — both during times of escalations and as a matter of routine — hinders and harms the work of Palestinian medical personnel. These IHL and human rights violations are a consistent part of Israeli policy throughout the recent decades — whether in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and within Israel — and are not limited to the current government. To prevent further violations by the Israeli authorities, the international community must take clear and concrete steps to end impunity and ensure accountability and adherence by Israel to international law.
Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel
Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement
Hamoked: Center for the Defence of the Individual
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights
MAP – Medical Aid for Palestinians
PCATI – The Public Committee against Torture in Israel
Physicians for Human Rights Israel