Human Rights NGOs: Immediate Action Required to Enable Evacuation of Wounded in Gaza


Physicians for Human Rights – Israel – B’tselem – Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of Movement – The Association for Civil Rights in Israel – The Public Committee against Torture in Israel – Yesh Din – Volunteers for Human Rights – Rabbis for Human Rights – Machsom Watch



Information received during the night, following the entry of ground forces into the Gaza Strip, indicates that the movement of ambulances to evacuate the wounded and the independent evacuation of civilians from areas/homes under bombardment is impossible due to continuous and heavy fire in residential areas.


Last night, at around 21:00 reports emerged of damage to Al Wafa Rehabilitation Hospital in Sejaiya. According to media reports, a building near the hospital in which rockets were stored had been targeted and bombed. Inside the hospital at the time were 17 patients in serious condition (for whom evacuation presented a real danger to their condition), staff and international activists.


Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-I) and B’Tselem had earlier given warnings about their presence in the building, but in spite of this, and after additional warnings to the hospital, the building was damaged. In this case, evacuation was eventually made possible following intervention and pressure from many bodies.


In another case, which continued through the night, the Alswarka family from the Beit Lahiya area turned to PHR-Israel with a desperate call for assistance to evacuate them from the line of fire. The family of several dozen people, including women and children, explained that they were situated on the ground floor of a building that had been hit by shelling and that there was heavy fire in their vicinity. Some of the family members were injured and required medical treatment. Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances that tried to reach them and other sites in the neighborhood encountered firing. For hours, attempts were made to contact different official organizations for help to evacuate the family. Towards morning contact with the family was lost, but it appears that some of them were evacuated.


It should be noted that as part of the lessons learned from ” Operation Cast Lead”, and in accordance with its legal obligations, the military pledged to prepare a coordination mechanism that would allow the evacuation of the wounded and give access to ambulances within a reasonable timeframe. The incidents of last night clearly illustrate that this mechanism, even if it exists on paper, is not sufficiently effective. Accordingly, we call for immediate action to honor this legal obligation to institute a mechanism to regulate the evacuation of the wounded in the Gaza Strip.


We call for protection to be provided to rescue teams and medical personnel in the Gaza Strip, to allow them to perform their duties without exposing them to danger. This will ensure the principle of the sanctity of life and would avoid delays in evacuating the wounded – delays which may be critical and result in more loss of life.


Moreover, given the enormous difficulty that civilians are facing in evacuating areas that are under heavy fire, we request the parties to ensure a safe corridor for citizens seeking to vacate areas under bombardment to save their lives and allow them to move to safe areas.


Additional Materials

The letter sent to the Minister of Defense (Hebrew)



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Categories: Gaza Strip, The Occupied Territories, Use of Force

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