Israel Denounced over Gaza Health Emergency at WHO Meeting

Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
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Israel Denounced over Gaza Health Emergency at WHO Meeting

Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinians evacuate Kamal Adwan hospital following an Israeli strike, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, May 21, 2024. (Reuters)

More than 30 countries condemned Israel's attacks on hospitals in Gaza and demanded more scrutiny of its role in the enclave's health crisis at a World Health Organization meeting on Wednesday, and some blamed Israel for a growing risk of famine.

The WHO has recorded hundreds of attacks on health facilities in the occupied Palestinian territories, which includes Gaza, since the Oct. 7 Israel-Hamas conflict began, but does not attribute blame.

The latest phase of the conflict this month has seen Israel launch a military operation against Rafah, blocking patient transfers, all but cutting off medical supplies and threatening its last functioning hospital.

A group of countries are backing a proposal at the WHO's annual assembly in Geneva that would mandate the UN health agency to boost documentation of the "catastrophic humanitarian crisis" in Gaza and report on "starvation" amid UN warnings of famine and disease after nearly eight months of conflict.

The motion is supported by over 30 countries mostly from Africa and the Gulf region but also Russia, Türkiye and China but even more spoke in favor of it. A vote is expected later on Wednesday.

"The healthcare system of Gaza is devastated. Israel has targeted hospitals in Gaza, completely destroying treatment facilities. This also means a war against the fundamental right to health," said Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca.

He also accused Israel of using hunger as a weapon of war and said its actions against hospitals amounted to a war crime.

Palestine's ambassador Ibrahim Khraishi urged countries to support the motion. "We cannot allow Israel to destroy everything, to destroy health care facilities and to allow this to happen," he told the crowded meeting room.

Israel's ambassador Meirav Eilon Shahar blamed Hamas for "deliberately putting the safety of patients at risk" by using health facilities for military purposes. It submitted an amendment to include a reference to the 250 hostages seized during the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks which killed 1,200 people and to condemn the use of hospitals by armed groups.

Israel denies responsibility for delays in getting aid into Gaza and says the UN and others are responsible for its distribution once inside.

Ireland was one of just a handful of countries to call for the release of the hostages in a speech where it also asked Israel to cease its Rafah operation.



UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
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UN Human Rights Chief: Unconscionable Death and Suffering Happening in Gaza

A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)
A child looks on as Palestinians search for missing people under the rubble of a destroyed house following an Israeli air strike, at al-Nuseirat refugee camp, southern Gaza Strip, 18 June 2024. (EPA)

Palestinians in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem are suffering a drastically worsening human rights environment, alongside "unconscionable death and suffering" in the Gaza Strip, the UN human rights chief said on Tuesday.

"The situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is dramatically deteriorating," Volker Turk, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the opening session of the UN Human Rights Council.

The West Bank, where the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule under Israeli occupation, has seen the worst unrest for decades, in parallel with the war in the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas.

Turk said that from the start of the Gaza war in October through mid-June, 528 Palestinians, 133 of them children, had been killed by Israeli security forces or settlers in the West Bank, in some cases raising "serious concerns of unlawful killings".

Twenty-three Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel in clashes with or attacks by Palestinians, he said.

In Gaza, Turk said he was "appalled by the disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law" by parties to the war.

"Israel's relentless strikes in Gaza are causing immense suffering and widespread destruction, and the arbitrary denial and obstruction of humanitarian aid have continued," Turk said.

"Israel continues to detain arbitrarily thousands of Palestinians. This must not continue."

He added that Palestinian armed groups were continuing to hold hostages, including in populated areas, which put both the hostages and civilians at risk.

Israel's permanent mission to the UN in Geneva accused Turk of "completely omitting the cruelty and barbarity of terrorism" in his address to the UN Human Rights Council.

"Hostilities in Gaza are the direct result of Hamas terrorism, decades of rocket-fire and incitement against the Jewish people and the State of Israel, culminating in its brutal attacks against Israel on October 7," the diplomatic mission said in a statement.

Israel's ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas-led fighters stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in Gaza, according to its health authorities, and left much of the enclave's population homeless.