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Statements and speeches Special Procedures

Israel/Gaza: UN experts deplore attacks on Al-Shifa Hospital, urge States to stop the massacre

03 April 2024

GENEVA (3 April 2024) – UN experts* today condemned the wholesale destruction and killing at Al-Shifa Hospital following a two-week siege and urged UN Member States to use all their powers to stop the ongoing genocide in Gaza. They issued the following statement:

“We are appalled by the massacre of civilians by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip. The world is witnessing the first genocide shown in real time to the world by its victims and unfathomably justified by Israel as compliant with the laws of war.

In the wake of the two-week siege and destruction of Al-Shifa Hospital, in which health workers and patients were among those reportedly killed, we urge UN Member States to implement all possible diplomatic, political and economic measures, and legal processes, to stop this horror. The extent of the atrocity is still unable to be fully documented due to its scale and gravity – and clearly represents the most horrific assault on Gaza’s hospitals.

The besieging and destruction of a hospital and the killing of health workers, the sick and wounded, and the people who protect them, is prohibited by international law. Allowing this violence to take place has sent a clear message to the world and the international community that the people of Gaza do not have the right to health and critical determinants of health adequate for their existence.

Al-Shifa Hospital was the largest single provider of health care in Gaza and its destruction was described by the World Health Organization as having “ripped the heart out of the health system”. By destroying it, Israel is denying access to health care to those most in need.

At this point, we are no longer discussing availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality of health care received in dignity, but the annihilation of any infrastructure capable of providing basic first aid. The deliberate destruction of health infrastructure in Gaza has created conditions calculated to destroy the distressed and traumatized population.

Patients in the Al-Shifa hospital complex included people with acute and chronic medical conditions, as well as those wounded by various military arsenals, creating a complex medical situation and an inability to manage subsequent and devastating complications of crushing tissue or organ injuries, repairing fractures or dislocations, or controlling bleeding. Lack of timely and appropriate care has led to a complete inability to provide the necessary medical care, with many suffering shock, disability and ultimately succumbing to their injuries.

At this unprecedented and tragic time, we call on Member States to take immediate action to protect, promote and respect the right to life, health, and dignity of those affected by loss and trauma, through effective access to humanitarian assistance, protection of remaining health infrastructure and health workers. There is an urgent need for food, water, shelter, fuel, emergency health care, psychosocial support and psychological first aid.

The strategies adopted by world leaders and Member States have failed to bring an end to this continuing egregious and grotesque violence.”

*The experts: Ms. Tlaleng Mofokeng, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and Ms. Francesca Albanese,Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967 .

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.
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