The closure of the health workers committee would have ‘disastrous consequences’ on the Palestinian health service, the group says.
Global rights group Amnesty International has warned that Israel’s move to shut down a major health facility in the occupied territories would have “disastrous consequences” for Palestinians.
Israeli military forces raided the Palestinian Health Workers’ Committee (UHWC) headquarters in Ramallah on Wednesday, broke down the door, confiscated computers and memory drives, and issued a military order closing the office for six months.
Amnesty said the UHWC runs hospitals and health clinics for marginalized communities and has been repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces.
Employees have faced harassment and arrest for the health providers’ alleged affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party with an armed wing.
“Israel’s closure of its headquarters would have major consequences for the provision of essential health services to thousands of Palestinians,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, a program for women’s health that was headquartered in Now it’s closed.” , said in a statement.
He added that Israel “as an occupying power” had “a clear obligation” under international law to protect the rights of all Palestinians – including their right to health.
“So far they have completely failed to fulfill this responsibility in the global pandemic, while adhering to a discriminatory COVID-19 vaccination policy,” Higazi said.
“Israeli authorities must immediately revoke the shutdown order and end harassment of health workers.”
He said the targeting of the UHWC was part of a wider attack by Israel against Palestinian civil society organizations.
“Instead of criminalizing organizations that provide critical health services, the Israeli authorities should end their institutional discrimination and systematic oppression of Palestinians,” Higazi said.
Amnesty said UHCW has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in the occupied Palestinian Territories, raising awareness, providing public health guidance, and providing medical care to COVID-19 patients in its health facilities, As well as reach communities through hard-to-find mobile clinics.
More than 310,000 Palestinians have contracted COVID-19 and the virus has killed 3,500 of them.
The organization also leads local advocacy efforts to reform the Palestinian health system.
Amnesty said this was not the first time the UHWC and its staff have been targeted by Israeli forces. Its Jerusalem office was closed by Israeli authorities in 2015.
Its Ramallah office, which was closed on Wednesday, was first raided in October 2019 – when its finance director was arrested. Two other staff members were arrested in March.