Recent Incursion into West Bank Renews Attacks on Ambulances

The current military operation includes the
reoccupation of Palestinian population centers in
the West Bank, and while Israel claims it will
take responsibility for the Palestinian civilian
population, which is to include the provision of
food and other forms of humanitarian aid, evidence
on the ground paints a different picture.

2002.06.24

On Friday, June 21st, 2002, Israel initiated its
most recent incursion into the Occupied
Territories in the West Bank.

The current military operation includes the
reoccupation of Palestinian population centers in
the West Bank, and while Israel claims it will
take responsibility for the Palestinian civilian
population, which is to include the provision of
food and other forms of humanitarian aid, evidence
on the ground paints a different picture.

The last four days have brought with them renewed
attacks on ambulances and medical staff, and
delays in the provision of medical services.

While the ability to access medical care in the
larger towns throughout the West Bank is poor,
that of the villages, in which many Palestinians
live, is grave.

The situation to date has not yet reached the
severity and intensity of operation “Defense
Shield”, yet P[hysicians for] H[uman]
R[ights]-Israel views with growing alarm the
rising number of cases in which medical
neutrality is violated and human life
disrespected.

These cases stand in contradiction to earlier
commitments made by the Israeli Defense Forces
(IDF) and rulings by the High Court of Justice*
, that Palestinian ambulances would be allowed to
travel unhindered, and that soldiers would be
instructed to respect the international law as it
applies to freedom of movement of medical
personnel in occupied zones.

*High Court ruling 2936/02, from 8.4.2002 states:

“However, the State emphasizes that the IDF
sees itself as committed to fulfilling the rules
of Humanitarian Law not only because these ensue
from the rulings of International Law, but also
for moral and utilitarian considerations.”

(transl. PHR- Israel).

The following case was brought
to our attention by our partners in Palestinian
medical organizations:

Jenin

The town is under curfew and ambulances find it
difficult to travel within the town.

In most cases
ambulances are delayed, and their passage impeded.

Passage to the Jenin refugee camp is only
permitted after prior coordination via the ICRC;
coordination sometimes takes up to 2-3 hours, and
sometimes receives a negative response.

Ambulance
personnel are at risk and fear attacks since there
is often insufficient or no coordination between
different tanks positioned in the town.

While one
tank permits passage, the next along the route is
not informed, and the process of examination is
repeated.

Friday, June 21, 2002:

Ihab Iyyadi, a PRCS medic
was driving a UN ambulance, when at around 11:00 a
call was received at the PRCS station to aid an
injured man in the area of the square in the
center of Jenin.

Together with Ibrahim Dababneh,
deputy director of PRCS Jenin, he drove to the
square, and discovered that the patient was at the
other end [of Jenin].

When they reached him they found he was
bleeding badly.

Ihab: “I got out of the ambulance
and approached the patient.

“The Israeli tanks that
were stationed 150-200 meters away immediately
opened automatic fire. We escaped, leaving the
patient and the ambulance.

“After a few minutes the
shooting paused and I crawled to the patient and
dragged him to a street corner. I managed to pass
him to some people who passed in a civilian car,
and they took him to Al-Razi hospital.

“At the next
pause in the shooting I returned to the ambulance
and drove it after the civilian car to the
hospital. The ambulance was hit by bullets on the
engine front and one of the indicators.

“Ten
minutes later I received a call saying that in the
Bustan neighborhood in town a civilian car in
which a doctor was traveling had been shot at and
that he needed help.

“The doctor, Dr. Samer
El-Ahmad, was hit in the back and the waist. His
spleen was later extracted by surgery at the
hospital.

“Near the car that was shot at were three
children riding bicycles.

“A tank fired on them
from a distance of 150-200 meters.

“One child was
killed instantly, a second died shortly after and
the third is now in the intensive care unit at the
hospital in grave condition.

“At 01:00 the PRCS
station received a call about a tank shelling a
private residence in the eastern neighborhood of
Jenin, and we left quickly for the house.

“We found
it destroyed, on top of its residents.

“We drew the
injured people out from the rubble with our bare
hands. There was one person killed, and 8 injured.

“The evacuation of the injured was delayed and
impeded by soldiers in the tanks, who kept trying
to explain that they had no connection the event.

“After we evacuated the body of a 13-year-old boy
to the Jordanian field hospital in the Old City,
the doctors determined his death.

“From there we
continued with the body towards the governmental
hospital, which has refrigeration [facilities].

“About 200 meters before the hospital a tank
stopped us, searched [the ambulance] and obliged
us to open the bag with the body.”

Source: Ihab Iyyadi, PRCS Jenin

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is a
non-partisan, non-profit organization founded in
1988, comprising some 650 members who combat
Israeli health and human rights violations, and
strive to ensure equal and adequate health
services for all.

Tel: 972 3 6873718
Fax: 972 3 6873029

e-mail: mail@phr.org.il

Author: Physicians for Human Rights – Israel

News Service: Physicians for Human Rights

URL: http://www.phr.org.il/Phr/Pages/PhrArticle_Unit.asp?Cat=11&art=413