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Medical facilities must be protected in Gaza’s urban conflict


The laws of armed conflict provide clear protections for hospitals and medical personnel. Both Hamas and Israel are obliged to respect their special status, says the former surgeon-general of the UK armed forces.

The laws of armed conflict bind both state and non-state armed groups. There is no doubt that Hamas in its incursion into Israel on 7 October committed grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. Israel accuses it of continuing to do so in the current war. What though of Israel’s response and what are the implications for future conflicts?

The laws of armed conflict seek to limit the inhumanity of war by, among other provisions, giving protection to healthcare personnel, medical facilities (including ambulances and hospitals) and the passage of medical personnel.

However, (incomplete) data from Insight Security covering the period 7 October to 5 November record 219 incidents of violence against or obstruction of access to healthcare facilities in Gaza and 10 in Israel.

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