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Press Release: As reports of attacks against medical and municipal workers in Gaza increase, Al Mezan condemns such violence, also remarks on desperation amid appalling humanitarian conditions

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Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its concern over the increasing cases of workplace violence against employees in the healthcare and municipal services reported throughout the Gaza Strip and stresses the need to investigate such incidents and hold those responsible to account. The trend is a marker of desperation among the population, which is enduring appalling humanitarian conditions and economic stress.

According to Al Mezan’s field monitoring and documentation, the past week witnessed the following workplace assaults:

At approximately 11:00 pm on Friday, 18 June 2021, 27-year-old emergency physician Dr. Abeer Yousef Tabash was assaulted by relatives of a patient in the emergency room at the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. Dr. Tabash told Al Mezan:

A patient in her early thirties arrived at the emergency room accompanied by four people pushing her hospital bed. The patient was placed in the ward designated for patients and divided by hospital curtains. I told the patient’s relatives to wait outside and allowed one companion to enter the ward as I was about to examine her. I was extremely surprised, however, when one of the relatives aggressively grabbed my arm and pushed me back while shouting at me and asking my name. He shouted angrily, “you killed my brother”. I was utterly shocked and told him to stay away from me, but his relative also tried to assault me while verbally abusing me. A woman accompanying the patient and these men grabbed my arms and started shaking me. A police officer arrived at the scene. I remember seeing him jostle the patient’s relatives as I rushed to the on-call room. I filed a complaint about the attack to the police. I was later informed that one of the patient’s family members had died earlier on Wednesday. I was on the night shift then, but I was not the supervising doctor who worked on the case of the deceased.

In another incident, a representative of the Gaza City Municipality told Al Mezan that the director of the Municipality’s Coordination and Supervision Department, engineer Khalil Mohammed Al-Shaqra, 59, was assaulted on Friday morning, 18 June 2021, while trying to prevent a group of men from stealing tiles and stones from the intersection of Al-Wehda and Abdel Qader streets. The theft would have caused further damage to the streets, which were substantially damaged in the latest Israeli offensive against Gaza.

Around 9:30pm on Wednesday, 16 June 2021, two other municipal workers—Ahmed Hussein Al-Natour, 37, and Mohammed Majdi Al-Helo, 36—were attacked at their workplace as they were monitoring the implementation of restrictions on the use of loudspeakers in public. Al-Helo suffered moderate bruises, while the glass of the municipal vehicle the two were driving was smashed.

While strongly condemning all incidents of vengeance and workplace violence, Al Mezan also expresses its grave concern about the recurrence of such incidents in the healthcare and municipal work contexts. Any aggression against healthcare professionals and municipal workers may not only weaken their morale, but also severely hamper the provision of vital services in these sectors. Therefore, Al Mezan calls on the competent Palestinian authorities to investigate the incidents, take serious action to deter their recurrence, and bring the perpetrators to justice.

These attacks are another indicator of breakdown in the rule of law and of desperation among the population, which lives amid appalling humanitarian conditions and is coming off of a devastating 11-day bombardment that centered on attacks against civilians, their properties and infrastructure vital to their survival. Israel’s tightened closure and blockade measures also puts pressure on ordinary citizens in Gaza byway of undermining the healthcare sector and public works and services.