The killing of three Palestinian men in a hospital in the West Bank last month by Israeli commandos disguised as medical workers and Muslim women may amount to war crimes, a group of UN experts said on Friday.
The three wanted terrorists were killed on January 29 in a joint undercover operation by the army, Shin Bet security service and Border Police in the Ibn Sina hospital in Jenin, one of the most volatile cities in the West Bank, Israel’s military said.
Palestinian media published extraordinary surveillance camera footage of the operation, showing many undercover forces dressed as doctors, nurses and Palestinian women, scouring the hospital corridors while carrying guns.
“Under international humanitarian law, killing a defenseless injured patient who is being treated in a hospital amounts to a war crime,” the UN experts said in a statement, referring to Basel Ghazawi, a patient being treated for injuries he said were caused by an Israeli air strike.
Israel said Ghazawi was a member of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror group, and that he and the two others killed were terror operatives planning imminent terror attacks, inspired by the October 7 Hamas onslaught in Gaza-adjacent Israeli communities.
“By disguising themselves as seemingly harmless, protected medical personnel and civilians, the Israeli forces also prima facie committed the war crime of perfidy, which is prohibited in all circumstances,” they added, calling for Israel to conduct an investigation.
The experts concerned are special rapporteurs engaged by the UN to examine a specific human rights issue.
Israel’s military was not immediately available for comment on their statement.
CCTV footage from the hospital showed a group of about 10 people, dressed variously in civilian clothes and medical garb, including three in headscarves and women’s clothing, pacing through a corridor, armed with assault rifles.
Israel’s military has said that one of the men killed in the hospital, 27-year-old Muhammad Jalamneh, was a terrorist from Hamas, which governs Gaza, and the others were brothers, Muhammad and Basel Ghazawi, who worked for Jenin Brigade and the armed wing of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Many wanted Palestinians have long been staying in the hospital to plan and carry out terror attacks, hoping the medical center would provide protection from Israeli counter-terror operations, the military said, in “another example of the cynical use by terror groups of civilian spaces and hospitals as cover and as human shields.” The comment was an apparent reference to the same tactic used by Gaza terrorists.
The IDF, Shin Bet and police accused Jalamneh of using the hospital as a hideout while planning attacks to be carried out in “the immediate time frame.”
Israeli troops have carried out dozens of raids in and around Jenin in recent months. Israel says that the PA has lost control of areas of the northern West Bank, allowing terror groups to entrench themselves and launch attacks on Israelis on both sides of the Green Line.