Israel accuses WHO chief of 'Hamas collusion' after tearful Gaza plea

Israel accuses WHO chief of 'Hamas collusion' after tearful Gaza plea
The WHO's Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was moved to tears while talking about Gaza, only for Israel to claim that the organisation is colluding with Hamas.
3 min read
26 January, 2024
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has led the WHO since 2017 [Getty]

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN accused the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus of "collusion" with Hamas after he choked back tears while delivering an emotional plea for a ceasefire and "true solution" to the war on Gaza.

In an emotional plea to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) governing body, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organisation's head, urgently called for a ceasefire and a "true solution" to Israel’s war on Gaza, describing the conditions in the Palestinian enclave as "hellish".

Tedros, deeply moved by his own experiences of war in Ethiopia, emotionally described the humanitarian situation in Gaza’s bombed-out enclave, where the death toll has exceeded 26,000 Palestinians, mostly women and children.

"I'm a true believer because of my own experience that war doesn't bring [a] solution, except more war, more hatred, more agony, more destruction. So let's choose peace and resolve this issue politically," Tedros told the WHO Executive Board in Geneva during a discussion about the health emergency in Gaza.

"I think all of you have said the two-state solution and so on, and hope this war will end and move into a true solution.

"I'm struggling to speak… because the situation is beyond words," the WHO head said while fighting back tears.

He warned that more people in Gaza will die of starvation and disease

Tedros’s emotive call for peace did not go down well with Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, who also spoke at the meeting in Geneva.

"The statement by the director-general was the embodiment of everything that is wrong with WHO since October 7th. No mention of the hostages, the rapes, the murder of Israelis, nor the militarisation of hospitals and Hamas' despicable use of human shields," she said. 

At the meeting in Geneva, she further accused the WHO of "collusion" with Hamas, claiming it ignored the "terrorist use of hospitals", without providing any evidence of such use.

The perceived callousness of Shahar’s words outraged pro-Palestine activists on social media.

Robert Martin, an activist based in Melbourne with over 100,000 followers on X, wrote: "The head of the WHO broke down in tears while talking about the horrors Palestinians are facing at the hands of Israel’s genocide. He was then accused of collusion with Hamas for having sympathy with 30,000 innocent people who have been slaughtered."

The WHO denies all of Israel's charges of any collusion with Hamas.

Hospitals and other medical centres have been a particular focus of the Israeli assault on Gaza, with 36 health facilities extensively damaged in bombing, including 22 hospitals.

Israel has come under criticism for deliberate attacks on hospitals, with this potentially being a key element in the displacement of Gaza's civilian population and making the strip uninhabitable. 

Only 14 of Gaza's hospitals remain partially operational.