[News] Under attack: how medics died trying to help Gaza's casualties
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
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
all my years have I seen this many health workers
and facilities targeted in this way."
In a report released yesterday, Physicians for
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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