The closure of the Health Workers ’Union Committee will have“ catastrophic consequences ”on Palestinian health care, the group says.
Israel’s move to shut down a key health agency in the occupied territories will have “catastrophic consequences” for Palestinians in need of medical care, world rights group Amnesty International has warned.
Israeli military forces stormed the headquarters of the Palestinian Union of Health Workers (UHWC) Committee in Ramallah on Wednesday, breaking down the door, confiscating computers and memory units, and issuing a military order that forcing the office to close the office for six months.
The UHWC runs hospitals and health clinics for marginalized communities and has been repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces, Amnesty said.
Employees have been persecuted and arrested for alleged affiliation of health care providers with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party with an armed gang.
“Israel’s arrest at its headquarters will have major consequences for the provision of essential health services to thousands of Palestinians, a women’s health program that was in place is now underway,” Saleh Higazi, director Amnesty International’s bid for the Middle East and North Africa, it said in a statement.
He said “as the occupying power” Israel had a “clear obligation” under international law to protect the rights of all Palestinians – including its right to health care.
“So far they have not fully fulfilled this responsibility throughout the global pandemic, pursuing a discriminatory COVID-19 vaccination policy,” Higazi said.
“Israeli authorities must immediately cancel the arrest warrant and put an end to the harassment of employees.”
He said UHWC’s targeting was part of a wider attack by Israel against Palestinian civil society organizations.
“Instead of criminalizing organizations that provide vital health services, the Israeli authorities must end their institutionalized discrimination and the systematic oppression of the Palestinians,” Higazi said.
Amnesty said UHCW has been at the forefront of the COVID-19 response in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, raising awareness, offering public health guidance, and providing medical assistance to COVID-19 patients in its health facilities, as well as the difficulties of reaching out to communities through mobile clinics.
More than 310,000 Palestinians have contracted COVID-19 and the virus has killed 3,500.
The organization also leads local defense efforts to improve the Palestinian health system.
Amnesty said it was not the first time the UHWC and its personnel had been targeted by Israeli forces. His Jerusalem office was closed by Israeli authorities in 2015.
His Ramallah office, which was closed Wednesday, was previously raided in October 2019 – when its chief financial officer was arrested. In March two other staff members were arrested.