Independent medical report on Gaza highlights major abuses

By agency reporter
January 22, 2015

A new report from Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHR-Israel) highlights the indiscriminate use of large quantities of powerful explosives by Israeli forces during last summer’s 50-day conflict, and attacks on medical rescue teams.

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) , 2,131 Palestinians were killed, 70 per cent of whom were civilians. Seventy-one Israelis, including five civilians, were also killed, while 11,100 Palestinians and 724 Israelis (according to PHR-Israel) were wounded during the fighting.

The report is based on the findings of eight independent, international medical experts who visited Gaza both during and after the conflict.

The report says two of the contributing factors that led to the high number of casualties can be ascribed to the indiscriminate use of large quantities of powerful explosives in residential areas, as well as ‘double taps’, in which, after an initial strike, came a second where relatives and rescue teams were hit.

The report goes on to say that attacks on medical teams occurred although emblems were clearly shown on ambulances and clothing worn by medical teams.

According to the World Health Organisation and the Palestinian Ministry of Health, 23 medical professionals were killed, 16 in the course of duty, while 83 were wounded. In addition, 45 ambulances, 17 hospitals and 56 other medical facilities were damaged or destroyed.

William Bell, Policy and Advocacy Officer for the UK-based churches' global development agency Christian Aid, commented: “[We] welcome this report as an opportunity to hear from those who endured and suffered the true horror of war. Having visited Gaza just after the cease-fire, Christian Aid can testify to the level of destruction and suffering of this beleaguered population.

“The report underlines the importance of supporting an independent fact-finding mission that can bring to account all those who targeted or endangered defenceless civilians. Without such a process, justice and morality will join the list of victims. The cycle of violence needs to be stopped. Life in Gaza is intolerable.

“Its population is once again trying to pick up the pieces, but without international intervention that lifts the Israeli blockade, ends impunity and guarantees the long-term security and dignity of all living in this region, both Palestinian and Israeli, then those lives will remain shattered.”

No safe place is based on the testimonies of 68 people injured in the Gaza strip, analysis of the photos of corpses, interviews with nine Palestinian medical professionals and reviews of dozens of medical files. The team also met with Israeli doctors who treated Israeli soldiers and residents of south Israel injured by missiles fired from Gaza.

PHR-Israel said the team was sent in both during and after the fighting as it was urgent to collect evidence while it was still relatively undisturbed, and events were “still fresh in the minds of the victims and survivors.” It is now calling on Israeli government to set up a national commission of enquiry.

Hadas Ziv from PHR-Israel said: “The report indicates a gap between the declared military commitment of preserving human life and its conduct during the fighting, which led to thousands of people injured or killed. It also led to there not being a safe place for the residents of the Gaza Strip to take refuge.

“We believe that the government of Israel must form a national inquiry commission to investigate the full scale of the events during the war.

Hadas added: “The commission should also investigate Israel’s decision making and its policy towards the Palestinian territories so as to promote a discussion of alternatives that can help in breaking the cycle of violence. This is necessary if we wish to create [a] safe place to all who live in the region.”



Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.