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Israeli shutdown of health organisation will have ‘catastrophic’ consequences on Palestinians: Amnesty

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FILE PHOTO: A woman receives a vaccination against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a temporary Clalit Healthcare Maintenance Organization (HMO) centre, in Herzliya, Israel February 3, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen/File Photo

Amnesty International said the closure of the UHWC office in Ramallah will impact badly on Palestinian communities who rely on their services.

The Israeli army’s decision to shut down a Palestinian Union of Health Workers Committee (UHWC) office in Ramallah will have catastrophic consequences on the health needs of Palestinians, warned Amnesty International Wednesday.

Israeli authorities raided the UHWC headquarters located in Ramallah, occupied West Bank, Wednesday morning, according to a statement released by Amnesty International.

Soldiers broke down the building’s door, confiscated computers and memory drives, and issued a military order to shut down the office for six months.

The statement added that the UHWC has come under repeated attack with its employees facing harassment and even arrest due to Israeli allegations of links to the Popular Liberation Front for Palestine (PFLP) militant group.

Its Jerusalem office was shut down by Israeli authorities in 2015, while its Ramallah office was closed on Wednesday.

The office was raided by Israeli forces in October 2019, when its finance director was arrested, and again in March 2021 when two other members of staff were detained.

“The Union of Health Workers Committee is one of the main providers of health services in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, running hospitals and health clinics providing medical care to marginalized communities. Israel’s shut down of its headquarters will have major consequences for the provision of essential health services to thousands of Palestinians, a program for women’s health that was at the headquarters has now stopped,” said Saleh Higazi, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

“As the occupying power, Israel has a clear obligation under international law to protect the rights of all Palestinians, including their right to health. So far, they have completely failed to fulfil this responsibility throughout the global pandemic, pursuing a discriminatory Covid-19 vaccination policy.”

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

She said the action was part of wider Israeli attacks on Palestinian civil society organisations, calling for an end to criminalising medical organisations such as UHWC.

UHCW has been at the forefront of the Covid-19 response in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, raising awareness on the disease, offering public health advice, and medical care to Covid-19 patients at its health facilities.

It has also provided services for “hard-to-reach” communities via mobile clinics and campaigned for a better Palestinian health system.

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