The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) strongly condemns the escalating tensions and violence taking place in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, leaving a high number of casualties. We are deeply saddened and concerned by the grave acts of violence and the brutal force used, including on unarmed civilians as well as healthcare and aid personnel.
Tensions in East Jerusalem have been on the rise since 13 April, reaching a climax between 7 and 10 May, as the Israeli authorities limited access to Al-Aqsa mosque for Palestinians, impeding worshipping . Tensions were further aggravated by the planned forced eviction of eight extended Palestinian families (approximately 75 persons) from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood, with peaceful protests arising in the same area in solidarity with the families . In the period between 7 and 10 May, it is estimated that about 1,000 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces and around 32 Israeli officers were injured during clashes in East Jerusalem as Israeli security forces attacked the Al-Aqsa Mosque and used excessive force against peaceful protesters according to reports . Since 10 May, in the context of the events in Jerusalem, Palestinian armed groups have been launching rockets towards Israel, with Israeli forces carrying out extensive airstrikes on Gaza, with extensive damage reported to residential buildings as well as to schools . Until the time of this press release, the reported human casualties out of the latter escalation is 232 killed and 1900 injured among Palestinian civilians, while 10 killed and hundreds injured among Israeli civilians . Two doctors and their families were among the victims. Furthermore, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) reports over 75,000 internally displaced and over 2,500 rendered homeless among Palestinians as a result of the hostilities .
The IFMSA believes that the right to health entails the right of all individuals to life, dignity and security of person. The IFMSA affirms that a safe and peaceful environment is crucial for human health and development, and recognizes the targeting of civilians and civilian facilities as a grave violation of human rights and international law. The IFMSA is concerned, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, of the repercussions of the ongoing attacks and violence on an already fragile health system and conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, which warn of a humanitarian crisis. We are also concerned about the forced displacements and homelessness resulting from the hostilities, as we affirm the right to safe and adequate housing and shelter.
Furthermore, the IFMSA is extremely concerned by the reports of violence against healthcare. Reports from the Palestinian Red Crescent and Physicians for Human Rights – Israel indicate that aid teams and ambulances were denied access to the wounded or were obstructed and attacked in the West Bank and Gaza, while Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) reports that one of their clinics was damaged by the airstrikes on Gaza . The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 91 incidents of attacks on health care in the Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the West Bank since the start of the conflict, resulting in 41 health workers injured, 21 health vehicles damaged, detained or confiscated, and 19 health facilities damaged . We strongly condemn these acts, and call to respect and act in accordance with the UN Security Council resolution 2286 on the protection of medical facilities and personnel in armed conflict. We call on the attacking parties to respect and ensure access to healthcare, and on aid and healthcare providers to ensure impartial, neutral and independent service provision. The IFMSA is also shocked by the targeting of two UNRWA schools and other UNRWA facilities within the context of airstrikes on Gaza, in a clear violation of international law .
The IFMSA calls on the involved parties to immediately ceasefire and to refrain from acts of violence and destruction. We further call on the involved parties to respect and comply with the principles of international law at all times, especially to stop targeting civilians as well as healthcare and aid personnel and services. We also call on the international community and UN agencies to mediate a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict and uphold the prevention of future hostilities and violence.
The IFMSA reaffirms that fostering sustainable peace goes beyond only ending the conflict, as it requires fostering equity and social justice in the affected community. Hence, the IFMSA calls on the states in concern to uphold human rights standards and ensure equitable policies without any form of discrimination for a peaceful and democratic society.
Lastly, the IFMSA calls on different involved parties to immediately de-escalate tensions, to stop the bloodshed and to respect human life. We reemphasize on upholding international laws, particularly the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and the protection provided to civilian facilities, and holding parties accountable for violations.
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