Gaza hospital

Palestinians receiving dialysis treatment are pictured at the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital in Deir Al Balah, Gaza on February 8, 2024.

(Photo: Ali Jadallah/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Experts Call on ICC to 'Prosecute Israelis Responsible for Bombing Hospitals'

"There is a particularly cruel circular logic at play here: Israeli forces, as they bomb and besiege Gaza, are creating an urgent need for medical care among civilians while simultaneously denying them access to it."

A pair of human rights experts on Friday urged the International Criminal Court to prosecute any Israelis who have played a part in the assault on Gaza's healthcare system, which is in tatters after months of relentless airstrikes, shelling, and a suffocating blockade.

"Since Hamas' horrific October 7 attack, Israel has repeatedly targeted healthcare facilities, ambulances, and access roads," Annie Sparrow, a practicing clinician in war zones, and Kenneth Roth, former executive director of Human Rights Watch, wrote in an op-ed for Foreign Policy.

"It has arrested healthcare workers, blockaded fuel needed for generators, and withheld critical medical and surgical supplies—all of which are intended to undermine Gaza's healthcare system," they added. "There is a particularly cruel circular logic at play here: Israeli forces, as they bomb and besiege Gaza, are creating an urgent need for medical care among civilians while simultaneously denying them access to it."

Sparrow and Roth called on the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is currently investigating alleged war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, to "prosecute Israelis responsible for bombing hospitals, denying access to medicines and vaccines, and causing excessive civilian harm."

"These attacks could be part of a plan to make Gaza uninhabitable and drive Palestinians out, an outcome that senior Israeli ministers—whose support Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needs to remain in power—continue to promote," they wrote.

The near-total collapse of Gaza's healthcare system under Israel's assault, combined with the scarcity of clean water and other necessities, has left millions of Gazans at growing risk of disease. There is no longer a single fully functional hospital in the Gaza Strip, according to the United Nations.

"Israel's destruction of Gaza's healthcare system is not only an important part of the genocide charges [brought by South Africa]—it is also a blatant war crime that should be prosecuted outright by the International Criminal Court," Sparrow and Roth wrote Friday, noting that while the International Court of Justice "resolves disputes between states, the ICC adjudicates criminal prosecutions of individuals."

"Targeting healthcare achieves little militarily while amplifying the death toll and suffering caused by indiscriminate bombardment," the pair continued. "Such attacks flout the core purpose of international humanitarian law—to relieve civilian suffering—and are thus often an omen of broader atrocities to come."

The World Health Organization (WHO) said Friday that it has documented more than 350 attacks on healthcare in the Gaza Strip since October 7. The attacks killed at least 645 people and injured 818 more, according to newly released WHO data.

"These attacks have affected 98 healthcare facilities, including 27 hospitals damaged out of 36, and affected 90 ambulances, including 50 which sustained damage," WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO's new figures came shortly before Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu instructed Israel's military to craft a plan to forcibly "evacuate" civilians from Rafah, a densely crowded city whose hospitals are overwhelmed with injured patients and displaced people.

Netanyahu's order intensified concerns that an Israeli ground invasion of Rafah is imminent.

Catherine Russell, head of the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), warned that a Rafah assault could be catastrophic for the enclave's already starving and desperate population.

"We need Gaza's last remaining hospitals, shelters, markets, and water systems to stay functional," Russell told The Associated Press. "Without them, hunger and disease will skyrocket, taking more child lives.”

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