Israeli security forces detained prominent Palestinian healthcare expert, Dr. Shatha Odeh, during a series of violent raids conducted across the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, July 7. Dr. Odeh, the executive director of the Health Work Committees (HWC), was detained along with at least 10 other Palestinians. The raids were conducted in various parts of the West Bank.
Dr. Odeh, who also is the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) regional coordinator for the People’s Health Movement (PHM), was reportedly detained for undisclosed reasons after Israeli soldiers broke into her home. They also seized her car as part of the raid. Reports stated that the concurrent raids conducted in other parts of the West Bank involved the Israeli soldiers ransacking and damaging the homes and personal property of Palestinians that were targeted. Those detained include a Layan Nasser, student of Birzeit university, and two former political prisoners.
PHM condemned Dr. Odeh’s detention in the strongest terms and demanded her immediate, unconditional release. Several health activists such as Wim De Ceukerlaire, the director of Viva Salud, took to social media to express concern for her health and safety. The PHM also shared an online petition demanding Dr. Odeh’s release. According to Palestinian sources on social media, Israel had ordered the Ramallah-based HWC to shut down and cease its operations a month ago. Dr. Odeh and the HWC were at the forefront of demanding equitable treatment and better services for Palestinians under occupation.
The Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates also took to Twitter to denounce her detention, calling it a “grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention” and a “war crime under the Rome Statute.” It also expressed concern at the wider Israeli persecution and and harassment of Palestinian workers in the health and agricultural sectors, especially the “systematic and deliberate targeting and attacks on workers of the HWC and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees.” The ministry demanded that Israel end such raids which “undermine the health system and puts added pressure on Palestine as it “braces itself for a fourth wave of the coronavirus pandemic.” It also called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for its “grave violations of Palestinian people’s fundamental rights, including the right to access healthcare” and to force it to stop carrying on committing its human rights violations and war crimes against the Palestinian people.
In September 2020, Dr. Odeh had spoken to Peoples Dispatch on the impact of Israeli policies on the health care of Palestinians during the pandemic. Here is what she had to say: