Red Crescent suspends coordinated medical missions with Israeli forces in Gaza due to safety concerns

CNNThe Palestine Red Crescent Society has suspended its work on “coordinated medical missions” in Gaza for 48 hours because it cannot ensure the safety of its teams, the wounded and the sick, PRCS said in a statement Monday, as it accused the Israeli military of repeatedly mistreating its staff and patients.

The suspension means teams will not work on humanitarian missions in areas where the Israeli military is present in Gaza, PRCS told CNN.

The humanitarian organization also accused Israel of not committing to the procedures and coordination mechanisms agreed upon with United Nations agencies to fulfill these missions.

Despite prior coordination with the Israeli military, PRCS said its staff and patients have repeatedly been mistreated by troops. It cited an incident on Sunday when Israeli forces allegedly held up a convoy evacuating patients in need of urgent medical attention from Khan Younis to hospitals in Rafah “for more than 7 hours and mistreated its members.”

This happened “despite the fact that the occupation forces knew the route of the convoy and the names and identity numbers of the staff accompanying the patients,” PRCS said.

CNN has reached out to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) for comment on the incident.

PRCS needs a third party to coordinate its safety permits to enter areas that have an IDF presence, it said. This is typically done with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the World Health Organization, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, PRCS said.

‘Collapse of civil order’

An increasingly dire humanitarian crisis has gripped Gaza since Israel launched an ongoing bombardment and ground invasion following Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack, in which at least 1,200 people were killed.

Hospitals have stopped functioning and supplies of food, water, electricity and lifesaving medical care are running perilously low. Nearly 30,000 people have been killed in Israeli attacks on the Palestinian territory, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Health care and aid workers have reported being detained and abused by Israeli forces in the strip.

Unsafe conditions have also led to a pause on some UN food aid deliveries to northern Gaza; CNN reported last week that Israeli forces fired on a UN convoy carrying food supplies in central Gaza on February 5, before ultimately blocking the trucks from progressing to the northern part of the territory, where Palestinians are on the verge of famine.

The IDF has not responded to CNN’s repeated requests for comment on the strike.

In the wake of the strike on February 5, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees decided to stop sending convoys to northern Gaza. Deliveries resumed last week before the World Food Programme (WFP) paused food aid deliveries because aid trucks were facing looting and gunfire amid a “collapse of civil order” in the besieged enclave, it said in a statement.

WFP acknowledged pausing deliveries “means the situation there will deteriorate further and more people risk dying of hunger.”

“WFP will seek ways to resume deliveries in a responsible manner as soon as possible. A large-scale expansion of the flow of assistance to northern Gaza is urgently needed to avoid disaster,” the statement said.