Israel leads in global attacks on medical facilities, workers - with Syria just behind

Israel leads in global attacks on medical facilities, workers - with Syria just behind
According to a new report, Israel committed around a third of attacks on healthcare workers and infrastructure worldwide last year, while Syria killed the most medics in 2018.
3 min read
15 May, 2019
Palestinian paramedic Razan al-Najjar, 21, was killed by Israeli forces last year [AFP]
Israel committed the highest number of attacks on healthcare facilities, workers and vehicles last year, according to a new report authored by international human rights and medical groups.

Worldwide there were at least 973 attacks on healthcare workers and infrastructure in 2018 which killed at least 167 healthcare professionals.

While those attacks occurred in 23 countries experiencing conflict across the world, around a third were committed in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip alone.

Of 308 total attacks committed by Israel, six health facilities were either partially damaged or completely destroyed and three medics were killed, according to the report released on Wednesday by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC).

All three were killed during the weekly Great Return Marches along the border between the besieged Gaza Strip and Israel last year, with a further 564 healthcare professionals injured by Israeli attacks during 2018.

Among the medical workers killed during the border protests was Razan al-Najjar, a 21-year-old Palestinian paramedic shot dead by Israeli forces.

Nearly as many health workers and facilities were subjected to attacks in Syria, where the number of medical workers killed was significantly higher.

Healthcare infrastructure and workers in Syria faced at least 257 attacks last year, with more than 120 aerial and surface-to-surface attacks on healthcare facilities, most of which were committed by the Syrian regime and its Russian allies.

More than 20 of those facilities were hit multiple times.

Those attacks resulted in the deaths of 88 healthcare professionals, more than half by airstrikes, and meant that over half of Syria's private medical facilities - state-owned hospitals and clinics do not operate in rebel-held areas - were rendered non-operational by the end of the year.

During the past few weeks, escalating aerial attacks by the Syrian regime and Russia and a new ground assault in the northern Idlib province have destroyed 12 more medical facilities.

At least 18 ambulances or medical transports were destroyed worldwide, with 14 destroyed in Syria alone.

Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and the Central African Republic also faced a significant number of attacks.

The SHCC - a coalition of humanitarian, human rights and healthcare organisations including Doctors of the World, Human Rights Watch and the Syrian American Medical Society - decried the "militarisation" of hospitals by armed groups in Yemen, which it said had lead to increased attacks on facilities, as well as forcing doctors and patients to flee.

In Yemen, the SHCC said, the Saudi-led coalition had targeted a Doctors Without Borders (MSF) cholera treatment center, despite it being clearly marked as a medical facility.

There were also at least two instances of "double-tap" strikes, where first responders were attacked after rushing to help victims of an attack.

More than half of the health facilities in Libya and Yemen are either closed or no longer fully functioning, according to the SHCC.

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