Geneva — The World Health Organization condemned the deadly strike on Tuesday on a Gaza hospital and demanded the immediate protection of civilians and health care in the strip.
“WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital,” the UN health agency said in a statement.
“The hospital was operational, with patients, health- and care-givers, and internally-displaced people sheltering there. Early reports indicate hundreds of fatalities and injuries.”
The health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory said Israeli air strikes on the hospital compound sheltering displaced people had killed at least 200 people.’
WHO statement on attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital and reported large-scale casualties
WHO strongly condemns the attack on Al Ahli Arab Hospital in the north of the Gaza Strip. The hospital was operational, with patients, health and care givers, and internally displaced people… pic.twitter.com/iduiD0pA3q
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) October 17, 2023
The Israeli army said the strike was a rocket misfired by the Gaza-based militant group Islamic Jihad.
WHO emergencies director Michael Ryan said any hit on health care was a violation of international law.
“The attribution and causation of that, it’s impossible for WHO to be able to determine,” he told a press conference. “That’s for others.”
However, the health facilities in Gaza “are well identified, everyone knows where they are and they need to be deconflicted and protected. Any violation of that has got to be condemned”, he said.
Violence halt ‘cannot wait’
Israel has been bombing targets in Gaza since Hamas militants from the territory attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering a war which has left thousands of dead on both sides.
The WHO called for the bombardment of Gaza to stop and for the Rafah border crossing with Egypt to be opened to allow aid into the besieged and blockaded enclave.
Ryan ruled out the possibility of air dropping aid into the Gaza Strip.
Doctors in Gaza held a press conference among the bodies of the massacred Palestinians in the Israeli strike that targeted Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital.
This is the most surreal zoom-out you will ever see! pic.twitter.com/QgEDck1R9L
— PALESTINE ONLINE 🇵🇸 (@OnlinePalEng) October 17, 2023
“The volume of material one can deliver in an air drop is so much lower than what can be delivered by trucks and overland,” he explained.
“The safest and most effective way to get aid to the people of Gaza right now is the Rafah crossing.”
However, even if the border opened, “the conditions do not exist right now inside Gaza to bring aid in and deliver it safely. There must be a cessation of bombing,” Ryan said.
“This cannot wait,” he said, adding: “Every second we wait, we lose lives.
“The violence on all sides has to stop.”
Israel’s army has told people in the north of the Gaza Strip – nearly half of its 2.4-million population – to head south to safety, ahead of an expected ground offensive.
The Al Ahli Arab hospital was one of 20 in northern Gaza facing evacuation orders, the WHO said.
“The order for evacuation has been impossible to carry out given the current insecurity, critical condition of many patients, and lack of ambulances, staff, health system bed capacity, and alternative shelter for those displaced,” it said.
“WHO calls for the immediate active protection of civilians and health care. Evacuation orders must be reversed.”
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