May 27, 2024

AFP, GENEVA: The World Health Organization on Friday
denied Israel’s claim that the WHO was in collusion with Hamas by ignoring
Israeli evidence of the “military use” of hospitals in the Gaza Strip.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said that such accusations could
endanger its staff on the ground.

Tedros was responding to claims made Thursday by Israeli ambassador Meirav
Eilon Shahar at a meeting of the UN health agency’s board.

“WHO refutes Israel’s accusation at the executive board meeting yesterday
that WHO is in ‘collusion’ with Hamas and is ‘turning a blind eye’ to the
suffering of hostages being held in Gaza,” Tedros said on X.

“Such false claims are harmful and can endanger our staff who are risking
their lives to serve the vulnerable.

“As a United Nations agency, WHO is impartial and is working for the health
and well-being of all people.”

Earlier this month he told a press conference that healthcare should always
be protected. It “cannot be attacked and it cannot be militarised”, he said.

Eilon Shahar had said Hamas was embedding itself in hospitals in the Gaza
Strip and was using human shields in the Palestinian territory.

In “every single hospital that the IDF searched in Gaza, it found evidence
of Hamas’ military use,” she said Thursday.

“These are undeniable facts that WHO chooses to ignore time and time again.
This is not incompetence; it is collusion.

“The WHO knew hostages were held in hospitals and that terrorists operated
within.

“Even when presented with concrete evidence of what was happening below
ground and above ground … WHO chooses to turn a blind eye, jeopardising those
they are meant to protect.”

– Situation ‘beyond words’ –

War erupted on October 7 when Hamas and other militants from Gaza launched
unprecedented  attacks on Israel which claimed about 1,140 lives, according to
an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized 250 hostages, and Israel says around 132 remain in
Gaza. That number includes at least 28 dead hostages, according to an AFP tally
based on Israeli figures.

Israel, in response, launched a relentless military offensive that the
Palestinian territory’s health ministry says has killed at least 26,083 people.

On Thursday, Tedros was moved to tears as he addressed the executive board.

The fact that 70 percent of the fatalities in the Gaza Strip have been women
and children should be motive enough to bring about a “long overdue” ceasefire,
he said.

“If we look for a solution it’s always possible,” he added, after pausing
to compose himself. “It’s only the will that’s required.”

Tedros occasionally becomes emotional when speaking about the impact of war
on children, citing his own early years in Ethiopia.

“I am a true believer because of my own experience that war doesn’t bring
solutions except more war, more hatred, more agony, more destruction,” he said
Thursday.

“I’m struggling to speak because… the situation is beyond words,” he
said, wiping his eyes.

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