WHO Welcomes UN Security Council Resolution on Gaza Ceasefire – As Battles Rage Around Three Gaza Hospitals
UN Security Council approves a first-ever resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza

WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Monday welcomed a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire and the assurance of humanitarian aid in Gaza, and the immediate release of all hostages. 

The resolution, which passed with a vote of 14 in favor and the United States abstaining, was the first resolution to pass the body since the 7 October attack by Hamas-led gunmen on Israeli communities that left 1,200 Israelis dead, and triggered Israel’s massive invasion of Gaza in a war that so far has resulted in the deaths of over 32,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry.  

Fighting continues in Shifa and raging around two more Gaza hospitals

Gaza’s Al Shifa hospital during a WHO visit on Friday 1 March – was only just getting back into service after months of siege, officials say.

The director-general’s comments came as fierce fighting continued to rage in and around three strategically placed Gazan hospitals – Al Shifa in the north, and Nasser and Al Amal Hospitals in Khan Younis. 

Israel claims to have killed over 170 Hamas militants in battles at Shifa over the past week, including Hamas chief of internal security, Faiq Mabhouh, along with detaining around 800 people on the hospital grounds. 

Hamas and Islamic Jihad gunmen continued to barricade themselves inside parts of the facility Monday night, Israel said.  The claims were denied by Hamas, which said that over a dozen patients had died during the operation, the most prolonged in a health facility since the war began.   

Patients and health workers who managed to leave the compound described harrowing scenes, with a shortage of food and water, and bodies piling up on the hospital grounds. 

Dr. Tayseer al-Tanna, 54, a vascular surgeon, told the New York Times that Israeli forces had gathered doctors and patients together in parts of the hospital, while they swept the grounds outside.

“The Israeli military didn’t treat us violently,” Dr. Al-Tanna was quoted as saying. “But we had almost no food and water.”   

He declined to comment on whether Palestinian fighters had fortified themselves in parts of the medical complex.

On Monday evening, Israel’s military spokesman claimed that Hamas and Islamic Jihad forces were still positioned inside the hospital’s emergency room, the maternity ward and a burn ward, were firing at Israeli forces, and throwing mortar shells from their positions.  

Following its first incursion into the hospital in November, Israel exposed video footage of Israeli hostages being brought into Shifa on 7 October. It also displayed caches of arms, ammunition and a tunnel dug underneath the compound. But experts later disputed the army’s claims that the hospital had been a major Hamas command and control centre.  On Monday, 17 March, Israel said that it had moved back into the hospital during an overnight operation, after it discovered leading Hamas military operatives regrouping there.

The hospital was only just getting back into service after weeks of siege in northern Gaza, in which medical supply deliveries were largely blocked, said Rick Peeperkorn speaking at a WHO press conference last Thursday.

“Shifa hospital was bouncing back and providing minimal services,” he said. But then a planned WHO mission to the hospital last week was cancelled by Israel. 

“It was cancelled due to the ongoing insecurity in the region. And this is, again, I think we’ve raised so often, what is needed is an effective and a transparent, workable deconfliction mechanism,” Peeperkorn said. 

The northern Gaza area is desperately in need of emergency malnutrition measures to stave off looming famine, he assserted. Hospitals also need to play a key role in this, he said, acting as “nutrition stabilisation centres” while northern Gaza, the area most at risk, is flooded “with ready-to-use therapeutic foods,” followed by a return to local food production as soon as possible.

Al Amal and Nasser Hospitals also now under siege 

Meanwhile, two other hospitals in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, Al Amal and Al Nasser, also came under siege by Israeli troops over the weekend, as fierce fighting raged in surrounding neighbourhoods.   

In separate statements, both Hamas officials in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank claimed that Israel had launched assaults on the hospitals, resulting in a number of casualties. Israel denied its forces had entered the hospitals, but said they had been cordoned off during fighting in the area.  

@WHO and @ochaopt are extremely worried about the safety of the patients, companions, and the few health workers remaining at the hospital. We urgently need safe access to ensure patients can be provided with life-saving care,” stated an X post by WHO’s Office for the Occupied Palestinian Territories

“Our team was not given clearance to proceed to the hospital for assessment and facilitating patient transfer this evening but was able to assist nine health workers who walked from Al-Amal to south #Gaza with water and first aid.

“International law is clear: patients, health workers, and civilians must be protected. We urge parties to the conflict to respect their obligations.”

Image Credits: UN News , WHO.

Combat the infodemic in health information and support health policy reporting from the global South. Our growing network of journalists in Africa, Asia, Geneva and New York connect the dots between regional realities and the big global debates, with evidence-based, open access news and analysis. To make a personal or organisational contribution click here on PayPal.