During Operation Protective Edge; starting 7 July 2014, the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) targeted medical aid centers, ambulances, and hospitals.
In many occasions IOF also obstructed the transfer and evacuations of wounded people and fired on ambulance crews.
So far two paramedics have been killed from IOF fire on their ambulances while fulfilling their duty.
In a serious escalation today, the IOF fired artillery shells at the Al Aqsa hospital, which is the main hospital in the Middle Gaza district and located in the town of Deir Al Balah.
The attack occurred at approximately 2:30pm on Monday 22 July 2014 and killed three people.
Dozens of people were injured in the hospital, which was crowded as many people were there; especially persons injured from IOF attacks and their relatives.
According to Al Mezan's investigation into this attack, IOF artillery shells hit houses in the vicinity of the hospital, with one shell directly hitting the third floor of the house of Aballah Al Faleet, 45, west to the hospital's building.
People rushed to carry the injured to the hospital when a shell hit the nearby house of Na'eem Sarsour, 37, which is adjacent to the hospital, too.
Injuries occurred again and people moved them to the hospital.
However, a third house for the Al Na'ouq family was shelled and people who live near the hospital started to evacuate their houses; especially houses that are roofed with asbestos.
More people gathered inside the hospital for shelter; including dozens of children and women.
At this point, the IOF directed artillery fire at the hospital itself, hitting the surgery department on the third floor with one shell, the maternity department with a second, the administration department with a third, and the stair house with a fourth shell.
Three people were killed in the attack on the hospital; including one patient and two visitors.
About 40 other were injured; 15 of whom from the hospital's staff.
Three ambulances and staff vehicles were damaged.
Those who were killed were identified as: 'Alaa Abdel Majeed Abu Dahrouj, 17; killed in the hospital, Zakariya Ibrahim Shalshak; who was killed in his apartment, and Khalid Awad Bayoumi, 34, who was visiting a patient at the hospital.
After the attack, ambulances tried to evacuate the wounded, however, three of the paramedics were injured; two seriously.
Accordingly, the hospital administration decided to evacuate all the wounded and patients to three other hospitals: the Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis City, and the Gaza European Hospital, also in Khan Younis.
As a result of these attack the surgery department and the hospital's computer system went out of order.
Beds, electricity networks, windows and medical equipment at the hospital were damaged.
The hospital staff was no longer able to keep record of the wounded and identify the dead.
Though three people were killed, only Abu Dahrouj was identified duly.
In a previous attack, the IOF fired artillery shells at about 8:30 am on Sunday 07/20/2014, at an ambulance operated by the Palestinian Medical Services, killing one of the medics, Zuheir Fuad Jaber, 35, who is from the northern Gaza Strip.
The shelling destroyed the ambulance completely as it was trying to reach the Al Mansoura Street in the Shejai'ya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, responding a call to rescue dead and injured people in houses the street.
In another incident, IOF artillery shelled a second ambulanced operated by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society as it was trying to reach injured people in the same neighborhood.
This second attack killed a volunteer medic , Ibrahim Salem Sahbani, 22.
IOF aircraft and artillery shelled the Beit Hanoun hospital and ambulance and civil defense crews in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun.
The work of the hospital and emergency crews was hampered and their lives endangered as a result of these attack.
These crews work under very difficult conditions and are under severe pressure as their movement must be coordinated by the IOF via the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Coordination take very long times, so they reach people in need of rescue very late.
They also lack essential supplies required for their work.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights has monitored the following incidents that obstructed the work of these crews: - At approximately 12:35 pm on Friday 18 July 2014 IOF drones fired a missile at the Beit Hanoun hospital, which hit the third floor of the hospital's building, the management section and the children's department, causing damage to the building.
No injuries were reported but the bombing hindered the technical and administrative work in the hospital.
- At around 16:30 pm, also on Friday 18 July 2014, IOF fired an artillery shell which fell near the southern entrance of the hospital, causing damages to the oxygen station, located at the entrance, although the shell did not explode.
No injuries were reported.
- At approximately 11:55 pm on Saturday 19 July 2014 IOF troops who were stationed in the north of Hamad Street in Beit Hanoun town in northern Gaza district, opened fire at two ambulances operated by the PRCS as they were on their way to transfer patients from the IDP's shelter operated by UNRWA in a school in the town.
One of the ambulances was damaged from three bullets; however, no injuries were reported.
- At approximately 12:30 am on Monday 21 July 2014, IOF fired an artillery shell at an ambulance operated by the PRCS as it was en route to evacuate injured people from the Masri Street in Beit Hanoun.
This attack occurred despite the prior coordination for the ambulance to enter the area via the ICRC.
The shell hit a sandy pitch a few meters from the ambulance and the crew left the location safely.
- At approximately 1:30 am on Tuesday 22 July 2014, IOF fired an artillery shell which fell near three ambulances operated by the PRCS.
They ambulances were on a mission coordinated with the IOF via the ICRC to evacuate inured people from the east of the Industrial Zone in Beit Hanoun town.
One of the people who were evacuated was injured from the explosion.
The three ambulances were damaged.
- At approximately 2:30 am on Tuesday 22 July 2014, IOF fired an artillery shell at the Beit Hanoun Hospital.
The shell landed in the hospital's garden, opposite to the Emergency Room, injuring one person, Bilal Al Sabe', 34, from shrapnel to the neck and the chest.
The explosion shattered windowpanes at the hospital.
Later, at 8:30 am, IOF fired another two shells at the hospital.
One of them landed in front of the Emergency Room.
The second hit the gate of the administration section, igniting fire at the entrance and causing damages to many windows in the building.
The continuous IOF attacks on hospitals, medical personnel rescue teams and ambulances represent serious violations of international humanitarian law; especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which accords special protection for hospitals and medical personnel during times of conflict, and demands that the protection of ambulance teams ensured and their movement facilitated.
Articles 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 in the Convention.
Article 18 states that 'Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict'.
Article 20 of the same Convention adds that 'Persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected'.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns the IOF attacks on medical facilities and personnel in the Gaza Strip, which seriously violate international humanitarian law.
Al Mezan reiterates the condemnation by the ICRC's condemnation of the armed attack on the Al Aqsa hospital.
Such attacks, together with the obstruction and/or prevention of medical access to the injured and infirm represent grave violations of international law that may amount to war crimes.
In light of the above, and Al Mezan monitoring of serious attacks on civilians and civilian targets in the Gaza Strip during the past 16 days, Al Mezan calls on international community to: Intervene urgently to protect civilians and civilian property; including health facilities and personnel, in the Gaza Strip; Condemn all attacks that are directed at civilians or civilian objects and demand that they are halted immediately and investigated as per the standards provided by international law; Support an investigative committee to consider the violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in the context of the ongoing Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.