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Fact Sheet: Violations of the Right to Health Care

Guaranteeing the protection and neutrality of medical personnel is one of the most important functions of international humanitarian law.[1]  The Israeli army systematically violates the right of Palestinian civilians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) to medical care in numerous ways:


  • Attacks on Emergency Medical Personnel.  The Israeli army has killed at least 15 on-duty medical personnel during the al-Aqsa Intifada, and injured at least 206.[2]  According to the Palestine Red Crescent Society, 10 of its ambulances have been destroyed and 80% of its ambulance fleet has been damaged.  Palestinian paramedics have also been arrested, beaten, and used as human shields on numerous occasions.  A number of wounded Palestinians have died after Israeli forces refused to allow medical personnel access to them.

  • Attacks on hospitals and infrastructure.  During their attacks on Palestinian cities, Israeli forces have shelled and raided hospitals and clinics, including Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, and al-Bireh, disrupting health care for patients.  These attacks have included: destruction of medical equipment; beating, detention, and harassment of medical personnel; use of medical personnel as human shields; forced closure of hospitals; and converting medical facilities into military outposts.  In addition, Israeli attacks on Palestinian infrastructure and industry have severely affected the health sector; since early 2002, Israeli forces have prevented work at the al-Ghusain factory, the only manufacturer of medical oxygen in the Gaza strip.

  • Checkpoints.  At least 43 Palestinians have died due during the al-Aqsa Intifada to delayed or obstructed access to medical care at Israeli checkpoints, often within short driving distance of hospital.  In over a dozen cases, women have been forced to give birth at checkpoints, resulting in at least 5 stillbirths.  The Israeli army frequently detains, delays, or altogether denies passage to ambulances or emergency patients at the checkpoints it has established around nearly every Palestinian city, village, and refugee camp in the West Bank.

  • “Closed Military Zones.”  Israeli forces attacking Palestinian areas routinely seal them off for hours, days, or weeks, denying access to medical workers, humanitarian supplies, and independent observers.  Declaring areas to be “closed military zones” has led to numerous deaths that could have been averted with timely medical care.

[Last updated 2 June 2002]


[1] The Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signatory, has multiple provisions to ensure the protection and neutrality of medical workers and facilities: “Civilian hospitals organised to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties of the conflict” (Article 18).  “Persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected” (Article 20).

[2] PCHR data; Palestine Red Crescent Society (www.palestinercs.org); Palestine Monitor (www.palestinemonitor.org)