Skip to main content

Press releases Special Procedures

Gaza: UN expert condemns ‘unrelenting war’ on health system amid airstrikes on hospitals and health workers

07 December 2023

GENEVA (7 December 2023) – Israel has declared an ‘unrelenting war’ on the health system in Gaza, a UN expert said today, after hospitals, including one dedicated to treating children, were hit by airstrikes in recent weeks.

Several times this week, Israeli forces reportedly hit the vicinity of the Kamal Adwan hospital in northern Gaza.

“The practice of medicine is under attack,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health. “As a practicing medical doctor, I cannot fathom what my Gazan colleagues are enduring. They are working while their colleagues and loved ones are under attack. Many have been killed while treating their patients,” Mofokeng said.

At least 364 attacks on healthcare services have been recorded in the occupied Palestinian territory since 7 October 2023, resulting in at least 553 people killed and 729 injured. More than 50 health facilities and 190 ambulances have also been affected.

Other healthcare workers have been injured, arrested, and detained, including the General Director of Gaza’s biggest hospital, Al-Shifa, who was arrested on 23 November. His whereabouts are unknown. Al-Indonesi hospital has reportedly been bombed 35 times since 28 October.

“The healthcare infrastructure in the Gaza strip has been completely obliterated,” the Special Rapporteur said.

At least five newborn babies at the Al Shifa hospital died before a planned evacuation could take place. The UN expert said there has also been an increase in communicable diseases, respiratory illnesses and diarrhea, and an increased risk of child pneumonia, which will only worsen as this war continues into the winter.

“We are in the darkest time for the right to health in our lifetimes,” Mofokeng said.

She pointed to an “immeasurable” number of violations of the special protection afforded to civilians, children, and medical personnel under international humanitarian law, alongside widespread violations of international human rights law.

“We have descended into depths from which we must quickly emerge,” she said. “For people to have access to quality healthcare, they must have access to healthcare workers, and those healthcare workers must be safe and free to provide care.”

“As a child survivor of apartheid, I understand all too well the trauma that children and people of Gaza will carry with them, not only from the current violence, but from the displacement and military occupation that they, and generations of their families, have endured,” Mofokeng said.

She underscored the need to prevent conflict and address root causes. The UN expert reiterated her call for an immediate ceasefire and an end to the occupation of Palestinian territory.

“We bear witness to a shameful war on healthcare workers. This war is raging because of a lack of political leadership. End the war on Gaza, and end it now,” the expert said.

Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Allison Thomas-McPhee ([email protected]).

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Maya Derouaz ([email protected]) and Dharisha Indraguptha ([email protected]).

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.
Concerned about the world we live in?
Then STAND UP for someone’s rights today.
and visit the web page at

Situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel

See all Media coverage of the situation