On 30 January 2024, a special unit of the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF), disguised as civilians in medical attire and as women or sick persons, stormed into Ibn Sina Hospital in Jenin, occupied West Bank, and killed three Palestinian men at almost point-blank range, including a wounded man who was still undergoing treatment. Al-Haq, Al Mezan, and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) warn that Israel is turning hospitals into yet another crime scene for extrajudicial killings in the West Bank, and committing acts of wilful killing of persons patently hors de combat, an unlawful attack on protected medical facilities and perfidy.
The Extrajudicial Execution of Three Palestinians
At approximately 5:30 a.m. on Tuesday, 30 January 2024, undercover Israeli special forces (also known as Musta’ribeen in Arabic), disguised as civilians, infiltrated Ibn Sina Hospital, located in the Al-Zahraa’ neighbourhood in Jenin city, and killed the wounded Basel Ayman Awni Ghazawi, 18, and his brother Mohammad Ayman Awni Ghazawi, 24, from Jenin Refugee Camp, and Mohammad Walid Ghazi Jalamneh, 27, from Jenin city.
The three killed Palestinians were present inside the hospital during the attack, as Basel had sustained severe injuries from an Israeli airstrike on 25 October 2023 at the Jenin Refugee Camp Martyrs’ Cemetery, which killed four Palestinians, including three children. Since then, Basel had been undergoing treatment and rehabilitation, grappling with semi-paralysis, unable to independently carry out his daily functions. That night, Basel was accompanied by his brother, Mohammad Ghazawi, and Mohammad Jalamneh.
According to our preliminary documentation, around 10-12 soldiers of the Israeli special forces arrived in civilian vehicles, and disembarked in the vicinity of Ibn Sina Hospital in front of the emergency department. The undercover soldiers entered the building gradually in groups, disguised in a variety of clothes and attires. Some wore medical uniforms, others disguised as visitors, others feigned sickness, others posed as women, one as a religious person (bearded and wearing a white hat), another was carrying a baby carrier, and another was pushing a person in a wheelchair. With this disguise, they managed to enter the hospital without raising suspicion.
The Israeli special force took the elevators to the third floor, where the three young Palestinian men were located. The entrance door to the department leading to the inpatient rooms was closed, as it was outside visiting hours at the time. According to our documentation, at around 5:50 a.m., at least three members of the Israeli special force, dressed as nurses and doctors, stood in front of the department’s entrance door and rang the bell, as shown on the camera visible to the nurse inside the department, while the others did not appear on the camera. Feigning a medical guise, a Palestinian nurse electronically opened the department door, believing they were medical staff seeking entry. As soon as the door opened, the Israeli special force entered the department, some of them approached the nurse, inquiring about a fabricated and fictitious patient’s name before attacking and beating her. Simultaneously, other members of the special force proceeded directly to Room No. 376, where the three young Palestinians were present.
Our field documentation revealed that, immediately upon entering Room No. 376, the undercover special force fired at the three young men, while they were asleep, at almost point-blank range using weapon silencers. Some close-by patients heard the nurse’s screams, followed by some faint gunfire sound. A companion of one of the patients left a nearby room to witness about ten people in civilian clothes, carrying weapons of various sizes. The Israeli special force directed their weapons at her and other patients and their companions, threatening and instructing them to return to their rooms. Patients and their companions realised that those were Israeli Musta’ribeen upon hearing them speak in Hebrew.
Once the Israeli special force had left the Hospital, the three young men were taken to the emergency department within the same facility. According to Dr. Tawfiq Al-Shoubaki, the Head of the Surgical Department at Ibn Sina Hospital, the three young men were hit by several bullets in the upper parts of their bodies, and succumbed instantly to several gunshot wounds.
A Multilayered Crime
The attack on Ibn Sina Hospital and the killing of three Palestinian men by an undercover Israeli special force constitutes multilayered crimes. First, the killing of the three Palestinian young men amounts to extrajudicial targeted execution, i.e., a premeditated attack, directed towards a pre-identified target, with the express intention to kill and without any warning or attempt of arrest, which is illegal under international law. The killing constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life in violation of Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and also amounts to the war crime of willful killing under Article 8(2)(a)(i) of the Rome Statute, giving rise to individual criminal responsibility.
Second, before Basel Ghazawi was killed, he was wounded and was receiving treatment for the severe injuries he sustained from the Israeli airstrike attack on 25 October 2023. Therefore, as a wounded person, he must be protected, humanely treated and cared for, and thus, cannot be targeted as per international humanitarian law. Third, the attack took place in a hospital, which enjoys a special protection status under international humanitarian law. Finally, the Israeli undercover special force’s conduct, feigning civilian status by inviting the confidence of the other with intent to betray that confidence, is prohibited under international humanitarian law, and amounts to perfidy, which constitutes a war crime under Article 8(2)(b)(xi) of the Rome Statute.
Escalated Violence and Oppression in the West Bank
According to our documentation, between 7 October 2023 and 30 January 2024, the IOF killed 373 Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem. Of those, 88 Palestinians, including 25 children, were killed in Jenin Governorate alone. In January 2024, 15 Palestinian residents of Jenin Governorate, including two children, were killed by the IOF. In 2023, the IOF killed 147 Palestinians in Jenin Governorate, including 40 children and one woman. As long as Israel continues to enjoy impunity for its crimes and human rights violations while the international community fails to hold it accountable, Israel will continue to escalate its violence and oppression against the Palestinian people and commit unimaginable atrocities.
Since the beginning of Israel’s genocidal warfare on Gaza, the IOF have increased their military attacks and raids across the West Bank conducted at a larger and more intense scale. Particularly in refugee camps, these attacks are characterised by the overwhelming deployment of military force, destructive vehicles, notably the D9 bulldozers, and recourse to aerial bombardments. The IOF have also been attacking medical personnel and units, and routinely stopping and blocking ambulances carrying the wounded from reaching hospitals, thereby denying those injured a chance to receive proper medical care and treatment. In light of this attack, we warn that the targeted killing of the three young Palestinians in Ibn Sina Hospital by undercover Israeli special forces is a dangerous escalation, which risks turning hospitals into yet another scene for Israeli crimes in the West Bank.
This is not the first time Israel has committed extrajudicial killings, or targeted Palestinian healthcare facilities in the West Bank and Gaza. In fact, Israel has been systematically attacking healthcare across the occupied Palestinian territory. In 2023, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 1406 attacks on healthcare across 19 countries and territories. Of these, 814 attacks were recorded in the OPT alone, accounting for around 58 percent of all attacks on healthcare last year. Between 7 and 3 December 2023, around 236 attacks on healthcare were committed in the West Bank, including eastern Jerusalem, according to WHO. In Gaza, Israel has been aggressively targeting hospitals and healthcare facilities, medical personnel and medical units as part of its genocidal campaign, leaving only 14 of 36 hospitals in Gaza partially functional.
Accordingly, we call on Third States to assume their legal responsibilities, impose sanctions and a two-way arms embargo against Israel, ensure the effective and immediate implementation of the International Court of Justice’s, provisional measures orders on Israel, hold dual-national Israeli perpetrators accountable under their national jurisdictions, exercise universal jurisdiction, and cooperate with investigative and/or prosecutorial bodies, such as the International Criminal Court and the Commission of Inquiry on Palestine.