Israeli military shutdown Palestinian health workers’ union headquarters in Ramallah

Israeli army forces raided the Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee (UHWC) headquarters in Ramallah on Wednesday, breaking down the door, confiscating computers and memory drives, and issuing a military order forcing the office to close for six months.

Israel’s move to shut down a key healthcare body in the occupied territories will have “catastrophic consequences” for Palestinians in need of medical attention, rights group Amnesty International has warned.

The UHWC runs hospitals and health clinics for marginalised communities and has repeatedly been targeted by Israeli forces, Amnesty said.

Employees have faced harassment and arrest for the health providers’ alleged affiliation with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a political party with an armed wing.

“Israel’s shutdown of its headquarters will have major consequences for the provision of essential health services to thousands of Palestinians, a programme for women’s health that was at the headquarters has now stopped,” Saleh Higazi, Amnesty’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa, 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 that of healthcare.

“So far they have completely failed to fulfil this responsibility throughout the global pandemic, pursuing a discriminatory COVID-19 vaccination policy,” Higazi said.

“Israeli authorities must immediately rescind the shutdown order and put an end to the harassment of health workers.”

He said the targeting of UHWC was part of a wider attack by Israel against Palestinian civil society organisations.

“Instead of criminalising organisations providing vital health services, the Israeli authorities should be ending their institutionalised discrimination and systematic oppression of 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 care to COVID-19 patients in its health facilities, as well as to hard-to-reach communities through mobile clinics.

More than 310,000 Palestinians have contracted COVID-19 and the virus has killed 3,500 of them.