B’Tselem: Israel must not bomb a-Shifaa Hospital
A-Shifaa is the largest medical facility in the Gaza Strip. In addition to thousands of sick and injured people and medical staff, the hospital is currently sheltering tens of thousands of Gazans who fled their homes, fearing Israeli airstrikes and heeding military warnings. According to Israel, Hamas has chosen to set up a military base underneath the hospital. If that is the case, Hamas is committing a war crime that is morally reprehensible and absolutely prohibited under international humanitarian law.
Even if there is a military facility operating under the hospital, this does not allow Israel to bomb the site. Such an attack would result in unbearable, horrifying harm to civilians and constitute a war crime – violating the provisions of international humanitarian law that Israel has repeatedly declared its commitment to uphold. According to these provisions, Israel must distinguish between civilians and combatants and refrain from attacks that would cause such widespread harm to civilians. This is certainly true of the sick, the injured and other vulnerable groups.
This principle is not merely a legal construct but a basic moral tenet: civilians, especially when they are unable to defend themselves, must always be protected. Even in wartime, and even if the other party does not adhere to the same principle.