[News] Under attack: how medics died trying to help Gaza's casualties

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Tue Mar 24 12:43:27 EDT 2009

Under attack: how medics died trying to help Gaza's casualties


Link includes an 8 minute video. 

Israeli military says medical staff 'take the risk upon themselves'
    * Clancy Chassay
    * guardian.co.uk, Monday 23 March 2009 15.55 GMT

Medical staff and ambulance drivers who attempted 
to assist casualties of the Israeli invasion of 
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gaza>Gaza have 
told the Guardian that they were attacked by 
Israeli forces while trying to carry out their job.

The offensive left 16 medics dead. Nearly all of 
them were killed by Israeli fire while trying to 
save lives, and many more were wounded. According 
to the World Health Organisation, more than half 
of Gaza's 27 hospitals were damaged by Israeli 
bombs. Two clinics were completely destroyed and 44 others received damage.

Dr Moawa Hassenein, the head of Gaza's Red 
Crescent ambulance teams, said it was the worst 
assault he had seen on ambulance workers: "I have 
never seen anything like what happened 
 Never in 
all my years have I seen this many health workers 
and facilities targeted in this way."

In a report released yesterday, Physicians for 
Human Rights 
said there was "certainty" that Israel had 
violated international humanitarian law, with 
attacks on medics, damage to medical buildings, 
indiscriminate attacks on civilians and delays in 
medical treatment for the injured.

"We have noticed a stark decline in IDF [Israeli 
Defence Forces] morals concerning the Palestinian 
population of Gaza, which in reality amounts to a 
contempt for Palestinian lives," said Dani Filc, 
the chairman of the pressure group. On one day – 
4 January – four medics were killed in two separate incidents.

The first saw paramedics Khaled Abu Saada and 
Arafa Abdel Daym hit by an Israeli tank shell 
packed with 8,000 flechettes dart-like nails as 
they moved one of three wounded civilians into their ambulance.

The patient died instantly; the paramedic died on the way to hospital.

Saada was thrown to the ground with three 
flechettes in the back of his head. "I picked 
myself up and found Arafa kneeling down with his 
hands up in the air and praying to God, his body 
was riddled with darts," he said. "The patient 
was in pieces, his head was missing. I was hysterical."

In the second incident, two ambulances called out 
to rescue injured men from a field in the Tel al 
Hawa district of Gaza City were hit by Israeli helicopter fire.

Three medics and a 12-year-old boy, Omar, who was guiding them, were killed.

The Geneva convention explicitly forbids the 
targeting of medics or medical facilities. 
"Medical personnel exclusively engaged in the 
search for, or the collection, transport or 
treatment of, the wounded or sick shall be 
respected and protected in all circumstances," it says.

In a statement, the IDF said: "The IDF does not 
target medics or other medical staff. As a part 
of their training, IDF soldiers receive 
instructions on identifying and avoiding injury 
to medical staff in the battlefield.

"However, in light of the difficult reality of 
warfare in the Gaza Strip carried out in urban 
and densely populated areas, medics who operate 
in the area take the risk upon themselves."

The International Committee of the Red Cross went 
further than ever before in criticising Israel's 
attacks on medical staff and facilities during the 23-day Israeli operation.

In one incident, a Red Cross-led convoy of 13 
ambulances carrying wounded to Egypt was fired 
on, despite Israeli clearance for the journey.

The convoy was forced to turn back and two of the 
wounded died after being unable to receive treatment.

Ambulance workers have described more than 30 
incidents in which they were prevented from reaching the injured.

Medics have also said their ambulances were used 
as human shields by the Israeli army. Ambulance 
driver Hassan Kalhout described one such ordeal: 
"They were firing mortars and phosphorus bombs at 
the houses. They placed our vehicles in front of 
them while they continued to fire. They made us 
stay in the ambulances and used us as cover as they fired on civilians."

The Israeli military declined to comment directly 
on why more than half of Gaza's hospitals were 
damaged by Israeli bombing but told the Guardian 
"an extensive post-invasion investigation" was 
under way and that it was looking into 
allegations that hospitals were targeted during the offensive.

Some Israeli officials have said that Palestinian 
fighters were either treated in these hospitals or took shelter in them.

What the Geneva convention says

Preventing care constitutes a serious violation 
of the laws of war. Article 17 of the fourth 
Geneva convention clearly states that "the 
parties to the conflict shall endeavour to 
conclude local agreements for the removal from 
besieged or encircled areas, of wounded, sick, 
infirm, and aged persons, and for the passage of 
ministers of all religions, medical personnel and 
medical equipment on their way to such areas". 
The fourth convention also says hospitals should 
"at all time be respected and protected" by parties at war.

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