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42 Days Transgressed: Legal Restraints on Life Support from Jenin to Gaza City

Medical workers being marched out of Jenin Hospital. Credit: Al Jazeera.

17 November 2023 | International Solidarity Movement | Jenin, Gaza

Through the war riddled lens of Palestinian journalists’ reports and social media posts, we have watched the crossing of an invisible line.  

As an American nurse doing human rights monitoring work in the occupied West Bank, I woke today to see the lens focused on a team of outfitted medical workers being marched out of Jenin Hospital in the night, arms in the air, as occupation bulldozers, drones and operatives draped the community in a spark-lit flash of raining bullets and blasts. Those who died bled in the streets where they have lived, likely discussing ‘the war’ on a daily basis.  

The question of where and what good is International Humanitarian Law has been posed by people and organizational bodies stretching back over decades. But it has been screamed into a void for 42 days of brutal bombardment in Gaza and through soaring instances of settler rampages and incursions against Palestinians in the occupied territory. 

For a foreign medical worker, it is hard to intimate this occurrence unfolding in the West. The same law limping through the fog of bomb blasts in Gaza would forbid it.  

The law is plain. Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, not only demands that the wounded and sick be cared for but it is made wholly clear that medical units must be respected and protected at all times, and must not be the object of attack as announced in Additional Protocol II.  

From Shifa to Al Ahli to Indonesian to Al Quds Hospitals, the occupation army has stomped roughshod over what has been enshrined in these charters, an entitlement they have been granted through the arms and funding pipeline flowing from the United States.  

The law goes on to state that “under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, intentionally directing attacks against hospitals and places where the sick and the wounded are collected… in conformity with international law constitutes a war crime.”

An investigation into violations of these laws of armed conflict by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza was birthed amid the aftermath of ‘Operation Protective Edge’ during which countless instances of proportionality and discernment violations were committed.  Israeli authorities refused participation and forbade an official Gazan body to take part, blunting the teeth of the query.  

But to date through the courageous reporting of Palestinians on the ground, the grinding documentation of daily atrocities must continue to be spotlit in both humanitarian and legal contexts and given the breath that millions worldwide have thus far provided through ceaseless acts of resistance and blockade actions.  

An outcry to adopt universal jurisdiction through domestic courts may be another avenue to introduce justice into an area justice-deprived.  

According to the International Rescue Committee, “Prosecutions can also take place in some domestic courts that have adopted “universal jurisdiction.” That refers to courts deciding to prosecute a crime committed outside its country by people who are not its nationals–but where the crime is serious enough to warrant prosecution anywhere.”

If we are committed to action, not only to halt the atrocities animated for the world through a stop-motion flood of images, videos and audio from on the ground in Gaza City to Jenin and Masafer Yatta to Khan Younis, let us also relentlessly pursue the avenues where barriers can be torn down to allow the long delayed, long deprived justice that Palestinians running from occupation bombs and bullets at this moment deserve.  

The U.S. is a refuser of International Criminal Court participation but many other nations are members who can seek legal action against those recorded committing atrocities against the bodies of murdered Palestinians, likewise those seen marching medical workers at gunpoint out of Jenin Hospital last night. Those air striking hospitals. Those bombing schools and refugee camps.  

The Hague awaits the ‘moral army’ flying flags over Shifa Hospital in their brave defeat of an illegally targeted medical facility where injured children and civilians were robbed of the last bastion of security in the warzone that has been made of their home.