The Syrian American Medical Society has joined people around the world in shock and grief, watching events unfold in Gaza and Israel over the past four days. Following a terrible pattern established in Syria and Ukraine, parties to the conflict are failing to make distinctions between civilian and military targets, and we are particularly concerned about attacks on healthcare facilities.
SAMS echoes calls from UNSG Guterres for all parties to abide by International Humanitarian Law and respect civilian life and infrastructure. As we have seen all too often in Syria, siege conditions which cut off electricity and water from entire populations are not legitimate tools of war and punish innocents. SAMS knows from direct experience the toll paid by the people when medical facilities are attacked. According to reports, 14 medical facilities in Gaza have already been struck, and 10 medical personnel have been killed. When medical infrastructure becomes a target, the most vulnerable populations, especially women and children, are most negatively impacted.
“In conflicts over the past twenty years, there has been a complete collapse in respect for the rights of civilians and the protection of vital medical infrastructure,” said SAMS President Dr. Mufaddal Hamadeh. “Whatever progress has been made in codifying the theoretical parameters of international law, we have seen all actors in conflict show a brazen disregard for innocent people and the lifesaving healthcare facilities they rely on. Destroying medical facilities doesn’t only deny patients care, but removes the only safe haven and sanctuary for the traumatized, injured and their families.”
According to IRC, nearly 1,000 civilians on each side have already been killed in just a few days of violence, with significant damage to all manner of infrastructure. It now appears that most residents of Gaza will not have access to a safe source of food or water. Measures must be taken immediately to ensure that millions of innocents are not starved or denied access to medical care because of where they live.