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Comparative analysis of hospital attacks in Gaza and Ukraine: 2022-2023

This article presents a summary analysis of the reported data of attacks on hospitals in both Gaza and in Ukraine, focusing on the incidents 2022-2023. It aims to provide an overview of the nature, scale, and human impact of these attacks, attributed to state actions by Israel in Gaza and Russia in Ukraine.

The international community has long recognised hospitals as sanctuaries during times of conflict, safeguarded under international humanitarian law. However, recent conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine have seen a distressing trend of attacks on these facilities. What, though, are the extent and consequences of such attacks? AOAV’s explosive violence data – drawn from English-language media sources – helps provide a comparative perspective between the two regions. AOAV does not claim to capture all incidents – either in Ukraine or Gaza – but this report serves to highlight the patterns of harm witnessed in these attacks.

Attacks on Hospitals in Gaza: October 7 to December 31, 2023
In Gaza, the period witnessed a total of 45 attacks reported on hospitals, predominantly carried out through air strikes and artillery shelling. These attacks were reported to have been perpetrated by Israeli forces. The statistics are alarming:

  • Total civilian casualties: 563, with 429 fatalities.
  • Breakdown by attack type:
    • Air strikes: 383 casualties (260 killed).
    • Artillery shelling: 25 casualties (23 killed).
    • General shelling: 11 casualties (4 killed).
    • Tank shelling: 3 casualties (1 killed).
    • Combined weapons: 141 killed.
  • The average fatality rate per attack was 9.8 civilians.

These incidents were recorded as striking hospitals directly, and there were no incidents recorded in Gaza where hospitals were damaged as part of a strike on other urban locations.

In the broader context, Israel was reported to have carried out 873 incidents during this period, with 12,551 civilian casualties, including 9,034 fatalities.

Attacks on Hospitals in Ukraine: February 24, 2022, to December 31, 2023
In Ukraine, the Russian invasion has caused 38 reported attacks on hospitals, with various methods employed, including air strikes, missile attacks, and shelling. These attacks were all attributed to Russian forces. The data reveals:

  • Total civilian casualties: 216, with 94 deaths.
  • Breakdown by attack type:
    • Air strikes: 41 casualties (7 killed).
    • Missile attacks: 57 casualties (14 killed).
    • Shelling: 62 casualties (17 killed).
    • Tank shelling: 56 killed.
  • The average fatality rate per attack was 2.5 civilians.

These incidents were recorded as striking hospitals directly. There have been hundreds of incidents recorded in Ukraine where hospitals were damaged as part of a casualty-causing strike on other urban locations.

Comparative Analysis and Conclusion
The attacks in Gaza resulted in a higher number of casualties per incident. The use of combined weapons in Gaza led to more devastating outcomes compared to the predominant use of conventional artillery in Ukraine. Furthermore, the overall number of incidents in Gaza was higher, indicating a more frequent targeting of medical facilities.

The attacks on hospitals in both Gaza and Ukraine represent a disturbing violation of international humanitarian norms. The higher casualty rate in Gaza points to a more lethal use of force, whereas the attacks in Ukraine, though fewer in number, still demonstrate a concerning disregard for the sanctity of medical facilities in conflict zones. This analysis underscores the urgent need for international intervention to protect these vital institutions and prevent further loss of innocent lives.

Dr Iain Overton, Executive Director of AOAV, said of the findings: “Attacks on hospitals in conflict zones are not just a tragedy, but a stark violation of international law. As we witness in Gaza and Ukraine, these attacks cause immeasurable suffering and highlight the urgent need for stronger enforcement of humanitarian norms to protect innocent lives.”