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7:26 am ET, December 13, 2023

WHO calls for protection of humanitarian workers in Gaza after medical workers detained at checkpoint

From CNN’s Niamh Kennedy

The World Health Organization (WHO) A hospital in Gaza City on Saturday called for the protection of humanitarian and health workers after it said medical workers were detained and assaulted at a checkpoint during a “high-risk” mission, and one was removed.

The WHO team, in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) and the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), carried out tasks such as “distributing medical supplies, assessing the situation in the hospital and transferring critically injured patients. to a hospital in the south,” the WHO said in a statement on Tuesday.

As the convoy traveled north on Saturday, it was checked at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint, during which ambulance crew members were asked to leave their vehicles for identification, the statement said.

The WHO said two PRCS employees were detained for more than an hour after they left their vehicles. According to the WHO staff, one of the PRCS staff members was made to kneel at gunpoint as he was led out of sight, “harassed, beaten, stripped and searched,” the report said.

Checkpoints in Wadi Gaza are manned by the Israel Defense Forces. The IDF acknowledged but did not respond to CNN’s questions about the incident.

When its convoy passed the checkpoint, it opened fire, WHO said.

“As the mission entered Gaza City, an aid truck carrying medical supplies and an ambulance were hit by bullets,” the WHO said.

It was not said who fired at them.

After successfully completing its mission at Al-Ahli Hospital, the convoy was stopped at the same Wadi Gaza checkpoint on its return. According to the WHO, one of the same two PRCS employees was taken back for questioning.

“The mission took several attempts to coordinate his release, but in the end – over two and a half hours – the difficult decision had to be made to leave the most dangerous area and continue for the safety and well-being of patients and humanitarian workers,” the statement said.

WHO said its staff met the PRCS worker after his release on Sunday.

The man said he was “harassed, beaten, threatened, stripped of his clothes and blindfolded” during detention.

“His hands were tied behind his back and he was treated in a degrading and humiliating manner. Upon release, he was left to walk south without clothes or shoes, with his hands tied behind his back,” the WHO alleged.

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