More health workers, patients, killed in Gaza as US vetoes ceasefire resolution

The US once again vetoed a ceasefire resolution at the UN Security Council, enabling more Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip

December 08, 2023 by Ana Vračar
Health workers in Gaza are under attack on multiple fronts, with their capacity to deliver care greatly diminished. Photo: PRCS

Once again, the United States exercised its veto power during a United Nations Security Council session on December 8, where delegates were discussing a ceasefire resolution for Gaza. Robert Wood, the US representative, described the proposed resolution as “imbalanced” and “rushed,” arguing that it would not lead to concrete improvements on the ground.

The US stood alone in voting against the resolution, while the United Kingdom abstained, and all other Security Council members voted in favor. This latest attempt to force Israel to implement a ceasefire has come after days of appeals from Palestinians living through Israeli attacks, leaders of international agencies and humanitarian organizations, as well from people across the world that have organized mass protests demanding an immediate ceasefire.

Read more: Antonio Guterres invokes Article 99 of UN Charter, urges UNSC to prevent further humanitarian crisis in Gaza

Living conditions in the Gaza Strip grow worse by the minute. Humanitarian aid is reduced to a trickle of what is needed, and is not reaching all regions of the Strip. A lack of clean water and sanitation infrastructure is increasing the risk of disease outbreaks in schools and hospitals used as shelters, which could cause more deaths than even the Israeli attacks, public health officials have warned in recent days.

As the US chose to block another chance for a ceasefire, health workers, patients, and hospitals in the Gaza Strip continued to endure unprecedented attacks by the Israeli Occupation Forces. Most hospitals in the Strip, along with ambulance services in the north, were forced to suspend operations amid a shortage of fuel and other necessities.

Israel’s armed forces have taken specific aim at some of the health institutions in Gaza. Among them is Al-Awda Hospital in Jabalia, North Gaza, where over 250 people, including health workers, patients, and their families, are currently seeking refuge. For the past four days, an Israeli sniper has targeted the hospital, preventing people from moving or reaching the limited supplies available in the building.

The same sniper also targeted and killed one of the hospital’s nurses, Ashraf Abu Daghim, as well as patients including women trying to access maternity services, according to testimonies from inside Al-Awda Hospital.

“We bear witness to a shameful war on healthcare workers,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health, reflecting on the situation in Gaza.

Indeed, in addition to hundreds of health workers killed over the past two months of Israel’s attacks, more remain detained. These include Awni Khattab, head of Emergency Medical Center in Khan Younis, and Muhammad Abu Salmiya, director of Al-Shifa Hospital.

This level of attacks against healthcare in Palestine has never been seen before, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Between October 7 and December 5, the organization recorded 212 attacks on healthcare in the Gaza Strip. The WHO also collected reports about 236 attacks in the West Bank in a similar period. These included obstructions to the movement of ambulance vehicles, searches of health workers, and detentions.

Close to 600 people were killed, and approximately 800 were injured, in Israeli attacks on Palestinian hospitals, health centers, and ambulance services during the period analyzed by the local WHO office. Those numbers continued to increase in the days following the reports, causing even more concerns about the status of the health system in Gaza.

Hospitals in the Gaza Strip are now receiving more dead than injured people, pointed out Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in statements made over the past couple of days. In the first week of December, Al-Aqsa Hospital in the Strip’s central region admitted 1,149 patients, of which 350 were dead upon arrival.

The organization also reported that one of their medical teams was deployed until recently to Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis. The team witnessed over 5,000 wounded admitted to the hospital, along with 1,468 patients who were immediately declared dead, between October 7 and their departure from the hospital.

“Israel’s campaign of indiscriminate killing, denial of access to healthcare, and repeated forced displacement have made conditions for more than two million people unbearable,” MSF said in their statement.

People’s Health Dispatch is a fortnightly bulletin published by the People’s Health Movement and Peoples Dispatch. For more articles and subscription to People’s Health Dispatch, click here.