26 April 2024

A consortium of British doctors have launched a petition calling on the government to take action to halt the ongoing catastrophe in Gaza. If you are a doctor or medical academic, we call on you to sign it.

UK doctors open letter to the government concerning Gaza

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Dear Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, and Health Secretary,

As a group of UK-based doctors and medical academics who are committed to upholding the protections offered to all healthcare workers by the Geneva Convention, we are alarmed and express deep concern about the catastrophe unfolding on the Gaza Strip, including the systematic destruction of hospitals and healthcare facilities. This is epitomised by Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, now destroyed after a 2-week assault by the Israeli military.  There are accounts of summary executions, including children, stripping naked and driving out civilians and patients from the hospital, and the abduction, detention and torture of hundreds of people, including healthcare workers.

The charity Medical Aid for Palestinians report that 490 Palestinian health workers have now been killed by the Israeli military, while hundreds of others have been detained, with reports of many being tortured, including the head of Al-Shifa Hospital, Dr Mohammad Abu Salmiya, detained on 23 November last year.  The UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) reported in March 2024 “staggering levels of violence toward Palestinian health workers in Gaza.”

Israeli news sources suggest that dozens of Palestinian detainees have died from torture and human rights abuses in Israeli military camps since 7th October, while others have suffered injuries including the need for amputations from handcuff injuries.

You will be aware that the provisional order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) dated 26th January 2024, concluded that there was a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza, and on the 25th March 2024, the UN Security Council resolution 2728 demanded an immediate ceasefire in the month of Ramadan, which regrettably did not occur.  Due to severe restrictions imposed by Israel on aid deliveries, the UN and international aid agencies warn of imminent famine, while the impending threat of a ground offensive in Rafah, where two-thirds of the Gazan population are seeking refuge, will lead to further death and destruction.

Israel has ignored the provisional order of the ICJ also in respect of failing to punish incitement of genocide by 92 Israeli doctors who signed a letter on 4 November 2023, calling for the bombing of hospitals in Gaza.  The letter stated attacking hospitals is the “right of the IDF and its duty” and that the people of Gaza “are the ones who brought their annihilation upon themselves”.

We draw your attention to the recent letter from 600 legal experts sent to the government on 4 April 2024,  which details among other things the disastrous humanitarian situation in the Gaza strip, reports of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and the collapse of health services in the territory.  The letter states: “We write in the light of these developments to remind you of your Government’s obligations under international law, which require you to take, amongst others, the following five actions.  We believe these actions are essential to safeguard the health of the people of Gaza and to stop Israel’s policy of genocide and ethnic cleansing.

1. To work actively and effectively to secure a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. 

2. To take all available measures to ensure safe access to and delivery of the essentials of existence and medical assistance to Palestinians in Gaza. This includes confirmation that UK funding to UNRWA will continue with immediate effect.
3. To impose sanctions upon individuals and entities who have made statements inciting genocide against Palestinians.
4. To suspend the provision of weapons and weapons systems to the Government of Israel.
5. To suspend the 2030 Road Map for UK-Israel bilateral relations and negotiations towards an enhanced trade agreement and to initiate a review into the suspension of the UK’s bilateral trade agreement with Israel and consider the imposition of sanctions.
A full reasoning for these actions is set out in the letter from the legal experts.Finally, we call on you to demand from the Israeli authorities that they cease forthwith all attacks on healthcare facilities and health workers, and release immediately all detained health workers currently held in detention by the Israeli authorities.

The signatories below are in a personal capacity unless stated otherwise.

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