South Africa condemns the bombing of the Ahli Arab hospital

Media Statement


18 October 2023


South Africa condemns the bombing of the Ahli Arab hospital


South Africa condemns in the strongest possible terms the killing of civilians in Palestine and Israel. The targeting of civilians in armed conflicts is in violation of International Humanitarian Law and Geneva Conventions.


Just as the attack by Hamas on civilians in Israel was abhorrent, there are no words to fully express South Africa’s condemnation of Israel’s bombing of the Ahli Arab Baptist hospital on 17 October, killing well over 500 people and injuring over 1000. The targeting of a hospital considered a safe haven under International Humanitarian Law is a war crime.


Similarly, the killing of the people of Gaza by Israel in 12 days of aerial bombardment of hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, and essential infrastructure are also war crimes. The continual bombardment of civilian targets, the denial of the civilian population of Gaza of water, food, fuel, and electricity is prohibited under International Humanitarian Law and by Geneva Conventions.


The bombing of the Ahli Arab Baptist hospital in Gaza is the most blatant violation of International Humanitarian Law. Doctors are operating without anaesthetics and do not have the medical equipment or supplies to treat the victims. The suffering of children and their parents are unspeakable and unfathomable in this day and age, and there must be consequences for these actions, otherwise the international structures established to maintain international peace and security have utterly failed.


The al-Ahli Baptist hospital, which was bombed on Tuesday night is one of 22 hospitals in northern Gaza which were ordered by the Israeli military to evacuate their patients and staff within 24 hours or be responsible for the consequences. The Israeli evacuation order drew swift condemnation from the World Health Organisation and other UN agencies. The World Health Organisation said the 22 hospitals were treating more than 2000 patients in northern Gaza, and the forced evacuation of patients and health workers would further worsen the current humanitarian and public health catastrophe and was tantamount to a death sentence.


Hundreds of civilians were sheltering in the hospital when it was bombed as it was supposed to have been a safe place to shelter.


According to UNRWA officials, 4000 internally displaced people who were sheltering in an UNRWA school were also bombed by Israeli air strikes yesterday. Hospitals have run out of fuel for ambulances or to run generators that enable the existing hospitals to function.


Under International Humanitarian Law and Geneva Conventions, Israel has committed war crimes and needs to be held responsible for its actions by the International Criminal Court and the international community as a whole.


South Africa calls on the international community to end its indifference to the gross violations against the Palestinian people in Gaza, and for the UN Security Council to take enforcement action to halt the unfolding genocide.


South Africa calls for an immediate ceasefire and the immediate opening of a humanitarian corridor to allow in medicine, food and supplies.


South Africa calls on Israel to cease its genocidal campaign against the Palestinians and open the water taps, provide food for civilians, electricity and fuel for the ambulances and hospitals.


We call on the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Karim Ahmad Khan to immediately signal his intent to investigate this and other war crimes, and the crime of genocide in this conflict, and to include in his investigation the liability of those aiding and abetting these crimes.




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