Mourners carry the body of Palestinian doctor Hani al-Jaafarawi

Mourners carry the body of Palestinian doctor Hani al-Jaafarawi, Gaza's ambulance and emergency teams chief, during his funeral in Gaza City, Gaza on June 24, 2024.

(Photo: Omar Al-Qattaa/AFP via Getty Images)

Israeli Military Has Killed 500 Gaza Healthcare Workers—Two a Day Since Assault Began

"This cannot be allowed to continue any longer," said one advocate. "Every potential serious violation must be independently investigated and those responsible brought to justice."

Doctors and humanitarian organizations demanded international investigations and action on Wednesday after the United Nations announced that Israel's military has now killed 500 healthcare workers in Gaza—roughly two per day on average—during its nearly nine-month assault on the besieged Palestinian enclave.

The U.N. Human Rights Office said in a statement Tuesday that Israeli forces' killing of hundreds of healthcare workers has "occurred against the backdrop of systematic attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities in violation of the laws of war." The World Health Organization has documented more than 460 attacks on healthcare workers and infrastructure in Gaza since October 7.

"The latest health worker reportedly killed was Mr. Hani Al Ja'afarwi, head of Emergency and Ambulance Services at a health clinic in Gaza City on 23 June 2024," said the U.N. Human Rights Office. "Many health workers have also died with their family members when residential buildings were struck by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)."

The U.N.'s latest tally did not include Fadi Al-Wadiya, a 33-year-old Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staffer who was killed along with five other people Tuesday in an attack in Gaza City. MSF did not explicitly assign blame for the attack, which the group described as "yet another brutal example of the senseless killing of Palestinian civilians and healthcare workers in Gaza."

Rohan Talbot, director of advocacy and campaigns at Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), said Wednesday that "hospitals, medical staff, and civilians all have protected status under international law, law that the Israel military has flagrantly ignored every day through its repeated targeting of healthcare facilities and staff."

"Though now happening at an unprecedented rate in Gaza, attacks on Palestinian healthcare by the Israeli military have recurred over many years, ever-worsening because of chronic impunity," said Talbot. "This cannot be allowed to continue any longer. Every potential serious violation must be independently investigated and those responsible brought to justice."

Not a single hospital is fully functioning in the Gaza Strip after months of relentless Israeli bombing, and medical workers have been forced to treat airstrike victims and other patients in overwhelmed facilities without necessary equipment and medications, including anesthesia.

As Israel's blockade leaves the occupied territory's population without sufficient access to clean water and other essentials, infectious diseases have been spreading rapidly as the health crisis spirals out of control, starvation proliferates, and the death toll mounts.

"Systematic attacks on healthcare by Israeli forces are exacerbating the worst humanitarian crisis ever seen in Gaza," MAP said Wednesday. "More than 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and at least 86,000 injured since Israel's assault began, with an estimated 10,000 still trapped under rubble, most presumed dead. Instead of being able to safely provide medical care for those in urgent need, Palestinian healthcare workers have themselves come under both indiscriminate and apparent targeted attack by the Israeli military."

Tanya Haj-Hassan, a doctor who volunteered in a hospital with MAP earlier this year, said that "Palestinian healthcare workers have told me that when they leave the hospital, civilians give them civilian clothing because wearing scrubs is putting a target sticker on their back."

"This is how systematically healthcare has been targeted in Gaza," Haj-Hassan added.

Haider Al-Qudra, executive director of the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) in Gaza, told MAP that "as long as the international community does not take any measures against Israeli forces that continue to violate international humanitarian law, we will lose more personnel working to meet the health and humanitarian needs of citizens on the frontline."

"Because of this systematic targeting from Israeli forces," said Al-Qudra, "34 PRCS staff have lost their lives, most of them emergency medical services staff, including 19 while they tried to respond to emergency calls from citizens."

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