The World Health Organization said Tuesday that a patient had died in an emergency convoy en route to a Gaza City hospital, during repeated and lengthy Israeli checks.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the weekend that the UN health agency and its partners had managed to deliver essential trauma and surgical supplies to the Al-Ahli hospital and to transfer 19 critical patients.
But on Tuesday, he provided more details about the high-risk mission, saying on X, formerly Twitter, that the WHO was “deeply concerned about prolonged checks and detention of health workers that put lives of already fragile patients at risk”.
“Due to the hold-up, one patient died en route, given the grave nature of their wounds and the delay in accessing treatment,” he said.
Tedros did not say in his message who carried out the checks, but a WHO spokesman told AFP they took place at an Israeli army checkpoint.
His comments came as Israel presses on with its bombardment of Gaza after saying its campaign to destroy Hamas has left the Palestinian militant group on “the verge of dissolution”.
The war began with Hamas’s October 7 attacks that killed 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures, with around 240 hostages taken back to Gaza.
Israel has responded with an offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed at least 18,200 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
The UN estimates 1.9 million of the territory’s 2.4 million people have been displaced by the war, half of them children.
Humanitarian leaders fear the besieged territory will soon be overwhelmed by disease and starvation.
Saturday’s WHO-led mission brought desperately-needed aid to Al-Ahli hospital, which had been “substantially damaged” and was in acute need of oxygen and essential medical supplies plus water, food and fuel, as well as additional health personnel.
Tedros had described it as a “very high-risk mission in the vicinity of active shelling and artillery fire”.
On Tuesday, he said the convoy was stopped twice at the Wadi Gaza checkpoint on the way to northern Gaza and on the way back, adding that some Palestinian Red Crescent staff were detained both times and questioned for several hours.
“As the mission entered Gaza City, the aid truck carrying the medical supplies and an ambulance were hit by bullets,” he said.
Tedros stressed that “the people of Gaza have the right to access health care”.
“The health system must be protected. Even in war.”