Hospital ships generally operate in or near war zones providing the necessary relief to wounded soldiers of all nationalities.

So as per International Law, Can hospital ships be attacked?

Hospital ships have existed since antiquity and were first used in the ancient Greek and Roman empires to transport wounded soldiers from the battlefield.


The Geneva Convention of 1949 declared hospital ships to be “immune from attack” and “protected under all circumstances.”

International Law Regarding Hospital Ships

Given the history and international regulations, it is clear that hospital ships are generally not subject to attack.

So can hospital ships be attacked?

Even though no adversaries can take these ships hostage, they have the right to board the ship, search it, and take recovering soldiers as prisoners of War but not their staff.

Even though attacking hospital ships is a war crime as per International law, there are certain conditions which should be followed by these ships; otherwise even they can be attacked.

Hospital ships shouldn’t be used for any military purposes, so for transparency, they are not allowed to use encrypted means of communications otherwise even they can be attacked.

Despite International laws, Hospital ships have not been immune to attacks. E.g. During WWII, a Japanese Kamikaze attacked USNS Comfort, killing 6 nurses, 4 surgeons & 7 patients

So now you know that even though the attack on hospital ships is prohibited as per law, there have been instances when the hospital ships were attacked, & many lives were lost!