Israel would NEVER target medical facilities!

October 18, 2023

In Substack



  1. 1982 Lebanon War.

In June 1982, Israel attacked Lebanon. It killed 15-20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians.  Here’s how the war began:

“Israel had decided that the truce [with the PLO] was at an end….  A Palestinian children’s hospital outside the Sabra [refugee] camp was struck by one bomb.  Sixty bodies were later taken from it.”. Source: Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation.

  1. 2006 Lebanon War.

Quoting from Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom:

Israel had targeted clearly marked Lebanese ambulances with missile fire during the 2006 war, even though, according to HRW, there was “no basis for concluding that Hezbollah was making use of the ambulances for a military purpose.” Source: Human Rights Watch, Why They Died.

  1. 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead.

Quoting from Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom:

In the course of Cast Lead, direct or indirect Israeli attacks damaged or destroyed 29 ambulances and almost half of Gaza’s 122 health facilities, including 15 hospitals. Sources: Jan McGirk, “Gaza’s Health and Humanitarian Situation Remains Fragile,” Lancet (4 February 2009); Amnesty International et al., Failing Gaza.


A Physicians for Human Rights–Israel report documented Israeli attacks on medical crews and ambulances, as well as “countless” Israeli obstacles blocking the path of “rescue teams in the field that attempted to evacuate trapped and injured persons.” Source: Physicians for Human Rights–Israel, “Ill Morals.”

A supplementary report by an independent team of medical experts commissioned by Physicians for Human Rights–Israel and the Palestinian Medical Relief Society found that Israel “prohibited” wounded Gazans “from being evacuated by ambulances,” and that it “targeted” ambulances and their crews. It concluded that the “underlying meaning of the attack on the Gaza Strip appears to be one of creating terror without mercy to anyone.” Sources: Sebastian Van As et al., Final Report: Independent fact-finding mission into violations of human rights in the Gaza Strip during the period 27.12.2008–18.01.2009 (Brussels: 2009).

The normally discreet International Committee of the Red Cross issued a public rebuke of Israel after a “shocking incident” in which Israeli soldiers turned back a Red Cross rescue team dispatched to aid injured civilians, leaving them to die. Source: “Gaza: ICRC demands urgent access to wounded as Israeli army fails to assist wounded Palestinians,” press release (8 January 2009).

The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights tallied that Israel’s systematic obstruction of medical access during the invasion caused the deaths of at least 258 Gazans. Source: Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Bearing the Brunt Again: Child rights violations during Operation Cast Lead (2009).


Still, didn’t Hamas militants fire from and take refuge in hospitals? “Vast amounts of . . . information, from both intelligence sources and reports from IDF forces on the ground,” Israel contended, “show that Hamas did in fact make extensive military use of hospitals and other medical facilities.” But according to Amnesty, Israeli officials did not provide “evidence for even one such case.” Amnesty itself “found no evidence during its on-the-ground investigation that such practices, if they did occur, were widespread”; Physicians for Human Rights–Israel did not find “any evidence supporting Israel’s official claim that hospitals were used to conceal political or military personnel”; the Goldstone Report “did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities. Sources: Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Hamas and the Terrorist Threat; Amnesty International, Operation “Cast Lead”.

  1. 2014 Operation Protective Edge.

Quoting from Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom:

Israel destroyed or damaged 17 hospitals and 56 primary healthcare centers during Protective Edge. Source: Al Mezan Center for Human Rights et al., No More Impunity: Gaza’s health sector under attack (2015).

The Red Cross “firmly condemn[ed] this extremely alarming series of attacks against humanitarian workers, ambulances, and hospitals.” SourceReport of the Detailed Findings.

Amnesty International investigated Israeli statements justifying the attacks on three of these hospitals. In no case did Amnesty find conclusive proof of Israel’s allegations. In one case, Amnesty reported that the evidence offered by Israel was flat-out false:

Israel repeatedly attacked and then reduced to rubble al-Wafa hospital, the sole rehabilitation facility in Gaza…. Displaying an aerial photograph, the Israeli military alleged that Hamas fired a rocket from al-Wafa’s immediate vicinity. Amnesty found, however, that “The image tweeted by the Israeli military does not match satellite images of the al-Wafa hospital and appears to depict a different location.”

During Protective Edge, ambulances were again targeted:

Fully 45 ambulances were either damaged or destroyed as a result of direct Israeli attacks or collateral damage during Protective Edge.


[Human rights and humanitarian organisations] extensively documented premeditated and unprovoked attacks by Israel on Palestinian ambulances during Protective Edge. Sources: Amnesty International, “Evidence of Medical Workers and Facilities Being Targeted by Israeli Forces in Gaza” (7 August 2014); Medical Fact-Finding Mission; FIDH, Trapped and Punished.

A UN report written by a US judge from the State of New York documented a series of attacks on ambulances during Protective Edge. Quoting from Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom:

The roof of a home was hit by high-explosive mortar shells that killed eight family members, including seven children aged between three and nine, who were playing there, and their grandfather aged seventy. Israel purported that the attack was in response to an “anti-tank missile” and a “burst of mortar” fired from the neighborhood that injured one soldier. The IDF then fired “another round of shells” ten minutes later “just as three ambulances and the paramedics arrived at the scene,” which also hit “many of the people who had gathered around the [family] house to try and help survivors.” The Report cited a journalist eyewitness who was “stunned” by the “apparent targeting of ambulances and journalists who had rushed to provide assistance to the injured and cover the incident.” It further noted that eyewitness accounts “are corroborated by two video recordings,” one of which showed a “dying cameraman continuing to film, and the ambulances being hit by a rocket.” The Report found, “As a result of the second round of shelling, 23 persons were killed, including 3 journalists, 1 paramedic, and 2 firemen. In addition, 178 others were injured, among them 33 children, 14 women, 1 journalist, and 1 paramedic. Four are reported to have died as a result of the injuries they sustained in this attack.” Although Israel subsequently alleged “that it did not have real-time surveillance” of the lethal assault, the Report didn’t buy this alibi: “The commission finds it hard to believe that the IDF had no knowledge of the presence of ambulances in the area in the aftermath of the initial strike, especially when the rescue crews, a fire truck, and three ambulances arrived at the scene with sirens blazing loudly.”


  • Shuja’iya—“a military medical aid ambulance was directly hit twice while attempting to provide first aid to victims.”
  • Al Qarara—“Mohammed Hassan Al Abadla, an ambulance driver, … came under fire while evacuating an injured person…. [W]hen [Al Abadla’s] ambulance arrived at the location, the IDF instructed the crew to exit the vehicle and continue on foot. Mohammed Hassan Al Abadla and one of two volunteers got out of the ambulance and approached the patient with a flashlight on, as directed. They had walked about twelve meters when they came under fire and Mohammed Hassan Al Abadla was hit in the chest and thigh. Two ambulance teams that arrived a little later to rescue their wounded colleague also came under fire, despite earlier ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] information that the IDF had approved their entry to the area. A third team was finally allowed to take Al Abadla to Nasser hospital in Khan Younis, where he died shortly upon arrival. The ambulances’ movements were at all times coordinated with the IDF through the ICRC.”
  • Beit Hanoun—“a missile appears to have hit the back of a PRCS [Palestine Red Crescent Society] ambulance during a rescue operation in Beit Hanoun. As a result, … an ambulance volunteer … was killed and two other rescuers inside the ambulance were injured. When another ambulance team was dispatched to respond, a missile hit the rear part of this vehicle, which caught fire. The ambulance had its siren and flashing red light on and, at the time of the strike, the street was deserted.”

The Report did not discover in any of the five incidents “any information, or receive any allegations indicating that the ambulances involved were used for a purpose other than their humanitarian function.” It went on to observe that “reports of repeated strikes on ambulances that came to the rescue of injured staff … suggest that the ambulances and personnel may have been specifically targeted”; that “Many, if not most, of the reported strikes on ambulances appear to have occurred without there having been any obvious threat or military activity in the area”; and that “ambulances were marked with emblems, health workers wore uniforms, and the IDF had been notified repeatedly of their movements.” Source: UN Report.