Attacks on Health Care in War Zones Surge 25% Last Year, NGOs Say 

 Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
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Attacks on Health Care in War Zones Surge 25% Last Year, NGOs Say 

 Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024. (Reuters)
Palestinians inspect damages at Al Shifa Hospital after Israeli forces withdrew from the hospital and the area around it following a two-week operation, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza City April 1, 2024. (Reuters)

Attacks on medics and health facilities in war zones jumped in 2023 to the highest level since records began 11 years ago, a group of non-governmental organizations said on Wednesday, with nearly half attributed to state forces.

The Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, composed of 40 groups including medical charities, reported 2,562 incidents of violence or obstructions including arrests, killings and kidnappings of doctors and strikes across hospitals in 30 conflicts including Gaza, Ukraine and Sudan.

That is up by about a quarter compared with 2022.

Unlike the World Health Organization which also documents attacks on healthcare, the group apportions responsibility and said governments were to blame for nearly half of the attacks.

Len Rubenstein, chair of the coalition and a Johns Hopkins University professor, called for "far more assertive action to end the scourge of violence against health care," asking governments to cease arms transfers to perpetrators and press prosecutors to hold them accountable.

The group uses open source data and partner contributions and cross checks to ensure no double counting.

The coalition attributed 489 incidents in Gaza last year to Israeli forces, including medic deaths or injuries and strikes or raids on hospitals. No responsibility had been established in seven other cases, including the deaths of six Israeli military medics killed in fighting in separate incidents between October and December, and the bombing of the Al-Ahli Hospital on Oct. 17, 2023, it said.

Israel, whose military offensive in Gaza began after the deadly Hamas cross-border attacks of Oct. 7, says hospitals in the Palestinian enclave are used by Hamas militants as bases.



NKorea Building Roads, Walls Inside Demilitarized Zone

This handout image from Planet Labs PBC taken on June 11, 2024 and received on June 12, 2024 shows a view of the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang. (Photo by Handout / Planet Labs PBC / AFP)
This handout image from Planet Labs PBC taken on June 11, 2024 and received on June 12, 2024 shows a view of the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang. (Photo by Handout / Planet Labs PBC / AFP)
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NKorea Building Roads, Walls Inside Demilitarized Zone

This handout image from Planet Labs PBC taken on June 11, 2024 and received on June 12, 2024 shows a view of the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang. (Photo by Handout / Planet Labs PBC / AFP)
This handout image from Planet Labs PBC taken on June 11, 2024 and received on June 12, 2024 shows a view of the Pyongyang International Airport in Pyongyang. (Photo by Handout / Planet Labs PBC / AFP)

North Korea's military has been building roads and walls inside the Demilitarized Zone that separates it from the South, the Yonhap news agency reported Saturday.

The construction activities are taking place north of the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) that runs through the middle of the DMZ, the South Korean agency said, citing an unnamed military source.

The report follows an incident last week when South Korean forces fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the MDL.

South Korean authorities said it was likely accidental, and Yonhap quoted a military spokesman as saying some of the North Koreans were carrying work tools.

"Recently, the North Korean military has been erecting walls, digging the ground and constructing roads in some areas between the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and the Northern Limit Line in the DMZ," the military source said, according to Yonhap on Saturday.

It was not clear what they were building, the source told Yonhap.

When asked about the report, the South Korean military said in a statement that it was "closely tracking and monitoring the activities of the North Korean military", and that "further analysis is required".

It said it could not share the South Korean response to these actions "to ensure the safety of the personnel proceeding with an operation", without offering further details.

South Korea's spy agency told AFP this week that it had detected signs that North Korea was demolishing sections of a railway line connecting the two countries.

That followed an escalation in the propaganda war between the two Koreas.

North Korea sent more than a thousand balloons carrying trash into the South, describing them as retaliation for the propaganda balloons sent the other way by anti-Pyongyang activists.

Then, South Korea resumed blasting K-pop songs and news broadcasts at the North, using loudspeakers installed at the border.

The resumption of the loudspeaker campaign prompted Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, to threaten an unspecified "new countermeasure".