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Another Israeli illegal action in Gaza: Israeli forces shot dead 2 Palestinian medical personnel in al-Wafaa' Hospital

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On Wednesday night, 5 February 2003, Israeli occupying forces killed 2 Palestinian medical personnel who were on duty in al-Wafaa' Hospital in Gaza city. This is the latest illegal action to be perpetrated against the Palestinian population, as part of the escalation of Israeli illegal military actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The killing of the two medical personnel came less than 24 hours after Israeli soldiers had violently beaten a French doctor of Medicines sans Frontieres at al-Tuffah checkpoint (which separates the al-Mawasi area from Khan Yunis). The doctor had been attempting, along with his colleagues, to enter the area, which has been perpetually isolated from the rest of the Gaza Strip, to attempt to provide medical aid for its residents.
Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israeli occupying forces do not appear to have taken any measures to avoid targeting Palestinian medical personnel and medical institutions. PCHR highlights the many violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that is a result of the attacking of medical institutions. Of particular relevance are the violations of articles 14-23 of the Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949, which relate to the rights of protected persons to medical care.

Since the beginning of the Intifada, Israeli forces have killed 17 medical personnel and injured approximately 300 others, including dozens of international medical personnel. In addition, dozens of hospitals and medical institutions have been destroyed or damaged by Israeli military operations.

According to PCHR's acquired information, at approximately 23:40 on Wednesday, 5 February 2003, Israeli forces moved into al-Sha'af area in the northeast of Gaza city. They surrounded a 4-storey house, in which 4 families, numbering 41 people live, owned by Mohammed Salah al-Ghoula, approximately 60m away from al-Wafaa' Hospital. The Israeli forces then destroyed the door, broke into the house and searched it. During the house raid, at approximately 23:55, an Israeli soldier fired a live bullet at a window on the first floor of the hospital, which is clearly marked in Arabic and English. The bullet hit a nurse in the chest and exited to hit another nurse in the chest as well, thereby killing the two:

1. 'Abdul Karim Hamed Anwar Lubbad, 22, from Jabalya; and

2. 'Omar Sa'ad al-Din Hassan, from the al-Zaytoun neighborhood in Gaza city.

According to a janitor in the hospital, who had accompanied the nurses, they had gone to check on a patient who was crying out in pain. As soon as they entered the room, a shot was heard. The two nurses fell onto the ground. They were bleeding. Doctors made efforts to save their lives, but Lubbad died immediately and his colleague died shortly after him.

PCHR calls upon the international community, particularly the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to take effective steps to stop violations of the international humanitarian law perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces. These include those violations carried out against Palestinian medical personnel and institutions. Furthermore, PCHR calls upon those High Contracting Parties to enforce those responsible to investigate these violations and to ensure the availability of medical services for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

PCHR, which has documented all violations against medical personnel and institutions, condemns this new illegal action perpetrated by Israeli occupying forces in Gaza city, and calls:

1. Upon the international community to take immediate steps, including sending inquiry missions from UN bodies, to investigate this latest illegal action and assist in bringing those responsible for it to international justice.

2. Upon the international community to provide immediate international protection for Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

3. Upon the World Health Organization and other international humanitarian organizations, especially the ICRC, to expose all illegal actions committed by Israeli occupying forces against medical and humanitarian personnel and all those protected under the Fourth Geneva Convention.

4. Upon the international community to provide immediate medical assistance to Palestinian medical institutions.