WHO protests after patient dies on rescue mission held up by Israeli troops

WHO protests after patient dies on rescue mission held up by Israeli troops
WHO protests after patient dies on rescue mission held up by Israeli troops

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - In a post on the X social media platform, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a WHO-led mission to bring supplies in and evacuate patients from the last partly functioning hospital in northern Gaza was stopped in both directions by Israelis. — Reuters pic

GENEVA, Dec 12 — The World Health Organisation complained today about the Israeli detention of a medical rescue convoy in the Gaza Strip, saying one patient had died during an evacuation held up by troops who detained and abused a Red Crescent staff member.

In a post on the X social media platform, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a WHO-led mission to bring supplies in and evacuate patients from the last partly functioning hospital in northern Gaza was stopped in both directions by Israelis.

One of 19 critically wounded patients the team was trying to rescue died en route because of the hold-up. One Red Crescent staff member was separated from the convoy, stripped, beaten and harassed before being sent out hours later on foot, unclothed and shoeless, with his hands still tied behind his back.

“We are deeply concerned about prolonged checks and detention of health workers that put lives of already fragile patients at risk,” Tedros said.

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Saturday’s mission evacuated critical patients and delivered trauma and surgical supplies to cover the needs of 1,500 people at battle-scarred Al-Ahli Hospital, the last hospital still partially functioning in the northern half of the Gaza Strip.

On the way out of the north, some patients and Red Crescent staff were instructed at an Israeli checkpoint to leave the ambulances. Critical patients were searched by armed Israeli soldiers.

“Some health workers were held and questioned for several hours,” Tedros said. “Due to the hold-up, one patient died en route.”

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Meirav Eilon Shahar, Israel’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, would not comment on the incident, saying she did not have enough information about it.

Richard Peeperkorn, WHO representative in Gaza, who was on the convoy, said the medics had been forced to leave behind one Palestine Red Crescent Society staff member.

“After two and a half hours, we had to make this incredibly difficult choice to leave this highly dangerous area and proceed for the safety and well-being of the patients,” Peeperkorn told reporters via video link.

The detained staff member later reported being harassed, beaten, threatened, stripped of his clothes, and blindfolded. After his release, he was left to walk towards southern Gaza with his hands still tied behind his back, and without his clothes or shoes, WHO said.

“His story is harrowing, and the humiliation and inhumane treatment he was subject to is rather shocking,” Peeperkorn said.

Health workers have been detained on previous missions to Gaza health facilities. On Nov. 18, six people were detained during a WHO-led mission to move patients from Al-Shifa Hospital. Four of those people remain in detention, WHO said. — Reuters

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