OPT: Ambulances under fire in Gaza

Report
from Palestine Red Crescent Society
Published on 19 Mar 2003
Gaza, 17 March 2003 (02:45) - Jabalia: In the Atatra area of Beit Laheya, Israeli soldiers stopped and ambulance that was responding to a call about people wounded by heavy shelling. Several tanks came and surrounded the ambulance. The soldiers ordered the crew to step out of the ambulance, and detained them in this manner for over one hour. The ambulance crew called the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) for coordination. The ICRC sent a team to help the medics, who were eventually permitted to leave the site.
Gaza, 17 March 2003 (06:30) - Jabalia: An ambulance went to the Atatra area of Beit Laheya, in response to a call about two injured people. As the ambulance approached its destination, with its emergency lights flashing, it was hit from behind by a barrage of gunfire from Israeli soldiers who were invading the area. The back windows of the vehicle were blown out, and many bullets penetrated the back of the ambulance. The ambulance crew returned to the ambulance station, switched ambulances, and returned to retrieve the injured people.

Upon returning to the scene of the conflict, the ambulance crew saw one of the injured men, and successfully got him, and a man who was trying to help him, into the ambulance. Then they made their way towards a second injured person, approximately 10 meters away. As they moved towards the second victim, the Israeli soldiers once again opened fire. The ambulance team was forced to leave the area without accessing the second victim. As they drove in the direction of the hospital, Israeli soldiers shot at the ambulance again, puncturing the front and right sides of the vehicle with many bullets. The man who was accompanying the injured person was hit in the lower back with shrapnel. The front right tire of the ambulance was hit. Nevertheless, the ambulance crew managed to escape from the gunfire and arrive at the hospital with the injured persons.

Gaza, 16 March 2003 (05:40) - Khan Yunis: An ambulance responded to a call about heavy shelling and gunfire, in which three people were injured and one was killed. When he EMTs arrived, they were shot at, and were therefore delayed. Bullets penetrated the ambulance from the left side. The ambulance crew got two of the injured people into the ambulance, and transported them to the hospital.

Gaza, 11 March 2003 (19:56) - Rafah: The dispatch received a call regarding an injured person in the Tel Al-Sultan area, where there was heavy tank shelling and gunfire. An ambulance reached the scene of the attack at 20:05. The ambulance drove next to a building to avoid being hit by stray bullets. Its lights were flashing and its sirens were on. The ambulance crew saw one of the injured people, and moved to aid him. As the crew left the vehicle, a tank, which was hidden behind a barricade, began to shell directly at the ambulance. This is despite the fact that the ambulance was clearly marked with the internationally recognized symbol of the Red Crescent, the vehicle's emergency lights were illuminated, and the crew members were all wearing brightly colored EMT uniforms with reflective strips. The ambulance driver was hit in the left hand by shrapnel from a tank shell. An EMT ran around the vehicle to aid the driver, whose hand had begun to bleed. The EMTs succeeded in getting the driver and the gunshot victim into the ambulance, and they left the scene as quickly as possible.

These incidents constitute violations of the First and Fourth Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ambulances, medical teams, and injured persons in conflict zones, are protected under International Humanitarian Law.

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