MPs continue to press government on protection of Palestinian health workers

Attacks by Israeli forces on health workers continue to undermine healthcare in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). According to the latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 810 health workers have been injured and 115 ambulances damaged in Gaza alone since 30 March 2018. Five health workers have been killed across the oPt over the same period. Nobody has been held to account for these attacks, and continuing impunity makes recurrence more likely.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has had a fantastic response to our recent email campaign on this issue, with more than 780 supporters taking part, reaching more than two thirds (419 of 650) of UK Members of Parliament. Supporters urged their MPs to call on the UK government to outline what action it will take help protect Palestinian health workers, and to redouble its efforts to ensure that there are prompt, effective, independent and thorough investigations into attacks, and that the perpetrators are held accountable, when they occur.

Following our campaign, several MPs tabled written questions to the government. Angela Crawley, Scottish National Party MP for Lanark and Hamilton East, asked Dr Andrew Murrison – Foreign Office and DFID Minister for the Middle East – “what steps his Department is taking to help ensure that medical workers in Gaza can perform their humanitarian functions without risk of attack.” Dr Murrison replied that the UK “regularly raise with the Government of Israel the humanitarian situation in Gaza, stressing the importance of protecting civilians, especially children and medical personnel.” He affirmed the government’s belief that “No health or aid workers anywhere in the world should be at risk of violence. They should have the protection that allows them to do their jobs in safety.”

“No health or aid workers anywhere in the world should be at risk of violence. They should have the protection that allows them to do their jobs in safety.”

– Middle East Minister Dr Andrew Murrison MP

On accountability, Helen Hayes, Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, asked Dr Murrison what action the UK is taking “to help ensure that when attacks on humanitarian workers occur in Gaza those responsible for those attacks are held to account.” To this, the Minister replied that the UK “supports an investigation which establishes the facts about the violence in Gaza related to recent protests,” and that “[g]iven the importance of accountability, we urge that any investigation be independent and transparent, that its findings be made public, and, if wrongdoing is found, that those responsible be held to account.” In response to a similar question from Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington, Dr Murrison further emphasised that “that the rule of law must prevail to deal with perpetrators.”

Labour MPs Barry Sheerman and Virendra Sharma both asked the Minister “what assessment he has made of the extent to which Israel’s internal investigations into the killings of Palestinian health workers comply with international standards of (a) independence, (b) impartiality, (c) promptness, (d) thoroughness and (e) transparency.” To this, Dr Murrison responded that the Foreign Office “have not made an assessment of this matter” but that the UK urges the Israeli Government to publish the findings of the investigations launched by its Military Advocate General on 13 March, highlighting that “Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories remains a human rights country of concern.”

Thirty MPs from all major parties have also signed an Early Day Motion (EDM) which “condemns the killing of healthcare workers in Gaza… and calls on the Government to take diplomatic steps to ensure that medical workers in Gaza can perform their humanitarian functions without risk of attack and to request an investigation which complies with international standards of independence, impartiality, promptness, thoroughness, and transparency” into such deaths.

MAP is grateful to the MPs who have tabled questions and signed this important EDM, and all our supporters who emailed their representatives. So far, however, the UK has not outlined what concrete steps it will take to ensure accountability for attacks on Palestinian health workers, and so our campaign continues.

If you haven’t already taken part in this campaign, you can encourage your MP to sign on to this EDM using the link below:

Call on your MP to sign EDM 2604

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