We, the undersigned human rights and civil society organisations, are deeply troubled by the premature release of an inconclusive report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) regarding the Al Ahli Hospital strike of October 17, 2023. Without definitive results, key evidence, or access to the Al Ahli Hospital site, HRW’s decision to publish this while Israel continues its genocidal war including the targeting of hospitals must be questioned.
Human rights organizations have a clear responsibility to protect. Yet at a time of unfolding genocide, (as defined by many experts and UN Officials) instead of calling for a ceasefire and working to end what UNSG called a “crisis of humanity”, HRW is choosing to spread unfounded theories. Given the lack of evidence, this can only be seen as supporting Israeli propaganda and justification for the ongoing genocide. Indeed, HRW risks exacerbating the already catastrophic situation facing Gaza’s health care system by emboldening further Israeli attacks on medical facilities.
Based on the opinions of military experts who had no access to the site of the strike and relied exclusively on photos and videos, the HRW investigation concluded that the explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza on Oct 17 was caused by an apparent rocket-propelled munition. Further, they noted that Palestinian armed groups commonly use such rockets and called for an investigation to determine who fired it. They base their conclusion on the assumption that this kind of munition is not what Israel usually uses, disregarding entirely the possibility that Israel may very well have used a new type of munition.
Many local human rights organizations supported calls for an independent investigation and accountability. In addition, several credible investigations have debunked central claims in the Israeli government narrative, and other investigations have cast serious doubt on the plausibility of that narrative. HRW based their assumptions on the size of the crater, the type of splatter adjoining it, and the pattern of fragmentation around it without access to the site. They suggested it was consistent with the impact of a local rocket despite the fact that it has never been documented that a Palestinian fired munition had caused such impact or damage.
HRW notes in its report that it tries to balance its findings with a response they received from Hamas despite the fact that Israel has blamed PIJ for the incident. Given the dire conditions on the ground, Gaza currently lacks any semblance of a civil authority—let alone one capable of engaging with such requests for disclosure of evidence or information. Meanwhile, Israel continues to withhold critical evidence, including two videos from non-military sources. On its part, HRW does not appear to have submitted Freedom of Information Law requests for key evidence from Israel.
We deplore HRW’s grave error in judgement- one which has devastating implications far beyond the borders of Gaza and the rest of Palestine. At a time when public trust in independent fact-finding institutions is of paramount importance, this HRW report weakens the credibility of human rights organisations and places Palestinian lives at risk.
Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
The Independent Commision for Human Rights
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights
Defense for Children International - Palestine (DCIP)
Jerusalem Legal Aid and Human Rights Center(JLAC)
Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC)
Palestinian Bar Association
The Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH)
The Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU)
Palestinian Journalists Syndicate (PJS)
The Civil Commission for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Rule of the Law (ISTIQLAL)
Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor (Al Marsad)
Human Rights and Democracy Media Center (SHAMS)
The Palestinian Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession (MUSAWA)
Tamer Institute for Community Education
The Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA)
Rawa Creative Palestinian Communities Fund
Lawyers for Justice Palestine
The Community Action Center - Al-Quds University
General Union of Palestinian Engineers
General Union of Palestinian Teachers
Palestinian General Union of Writers
General Palestinian Trade Unions
Medical association - Jerusalem Center
Federation of Health Professions
Palestinian Dental Association
Jerusalem Center Pharmacists Association
Palestinian Union of Psychologists and Social Workers
Syndicates Palestinian Nursery and Midwifery Association
Palestinian Working Woman Society for Development (PWWSD)
Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC)
Women’s Studies Centre
The Palestinian Association for Empowerment and Local Development (REFORM)
Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA)
Jerusalem Center Agricultural Engineers Association
Palestinian Veterinarians Syndicate
Jerusalem Center Palestinian Accountants
Palestinian Contractors Union