Call from Gaza 2009

Volunteer medic Arafa, murdered while rescuing - photographer unknown

Volunteer medic Arafa, murdered while rescuing - photographer unknown

This is a message from Gaza emergency workers to the world.

“In the most recent offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces directly targeted emergency rescue workers and medical personnel. We lost 16 members of our teams, and sustained 57 injuries. 29 of our ambulances were damaged, and 35 health facilities were attacked. Wafa and Al Quds Hospitals were directly targeted using white phosphorous.

On the frontline, we are witness to the horrific reality of war. We have seen the damage wrought when human bodies are torn by flechettes, burned by white phosphorous, and crushed by bulldozers. We search for the bodies of the dead and injured beneath destroyed homes, factories, and mosques. We put out the fires devouring our homes, our hospitals, and our police stations. We have held together the shattered skulls and limbs of our children, and assisted mothers as they give birth to a new generation born amidst the horror of war. Like thousands of medical and emergency workers throughout the world, we seek to help all those in need, regardless of their nationality or political ideology.

Despite being targeted, we continue to fulfil our duties in order to help those that need us.

As emergency workers in Gaza, we call on our colleagues throughout the world to stand with us, and to advocate on our behalf, and on behalf of our profession, in order to ensure:

• Respect for medical workers and international law – International humanitarian law intends to alleviate the suffering caused by war. Explicit protections are granted to medical and relief personnel, and medical facilities. They must be respected and protected, they may not be directly targeted. All Parties to a conflict are required to facilitate the search for the killed and wounded, in order that civilians and persons placed hors de combat (soldiers out of the fight) may be spared unnecessary suffering.

• Accountability and due process – Those responsible for attacks on medical workers must be held accountable. These attacks constitute war crimes and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. They prevent workers from accessing the wounded, and cause the needless death of individuals who might otherwise be saved.

• Lifting the siege – The Israeli imposed siege of the Gaza Strip has now been in place for 22 consecutive months. Israeli policy restricts supplies of essential medicine and equipment, and prevents patients from seeking emergency medical treatment unavailable inside the Gaza Strip. The siege is a form of collective punishment, in violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It affects each and every one of Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants.

Individuals can make a difference. We urge our colleagues to use all available mechanisms to advocate for change so that lives may be saved. Boycotts, divestment, sanctions, and political lobbying can be used to great effect. They offer an opportunity to express condemnation, and help create a climate conducive to real political change.”

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