May 29, 2024

AFP, GENEVA: The Red Cross called Friday for medical
facilities and workers in war-ravaged Gaza to be protected, warning the health
system there had “reached a point of no return”.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that its teams in
recent days had distributed critical supplies to medical structures across
Gaza, and had seen “horrendous images that have now gotten worse due to
sharpened hostilities”.

This was severely affecting hospitals and ambulances, and taking a heavy
toll on civilians, patients and medical staff, it said in a statement.

“Overstretched, running on thin supplies and increasingly unsafe, the
healthcare system in Gaza has reached a point of no return.”

Medical facilities and personnel across Gaza have repeatedly come under
attack since Israel’s war with Hamas erupted just over a month ago.

Such attacks have dealt “a heavy blow to the healthcare system in Gaza,
which is severely weakened after more than one month of heavy fighting,” ICRC
said.

Israel launched an offensive in Gaza after Hamas fighters poured across the
heavily militarised border on October 7, killing 1,400 people, mostly
civilians, and taking around 240 hostages.

Vowing to destroy the militants, Israel retaliated with a massive
bombardment and a ground campaign that the health ministry in the Hamas-run
Gaza Strip says has killed more than 11,000 people, mostly civilians and many
of them children.

“The destruction affecting hospitals in Gaza is becoming unbearable and
needs to stop,” William Schomburg, head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Gaza,
said in Friday’s statement.

“The lives of thousands of civilians, patients and medical staff are at
risk.”

The ICRC pointed out that children’s hospitals had not been spared from the
violence, including the Al Nasser Hospital, which had been heavily damaged by
hostilities and Al Rantisi Hospital, which had been forced to cease operations.

“Our partner the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), has been working
relentlessly to continue operating the Al Quds Hospital, as it desperately runs
out of the necessary means, amidst increasing hostilities,” it said.

Gaza’s largest hospital, Al Shifa, which was hit by a strike Friday that
its director said killed 13 people, is meanwhile not only overwhelmed with
patients but also now hosting thousands of displaced families.

“Any military operation around hospitals must consider the presence of
civilians, who are protected under international humanitarian law,” ICRC said.

“The rules of war are clear. Hospitals are specially protected facilities
under international humanitarian law,” it said.

The protection of civilians, including humanitarian workers and medical
personnel “is not only a legal obligation but a moral imperative to preserve
human life in these terrible times”.

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