Israel + 1 more

OPT: Weekly Press Release 15 - 21 Mar 2003

During this reporting period, the Israeli Army continued to violate the First and Fourth Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by denying freedom of movement to Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulances and its medical teams, who suffered threats, humiliation, and verbal abuse. Delays, denial of access, and arbitrary searches adversely affected the sick and wounded in Nablus, Ramallah, Jericho, and Bethlehem.
Nablus, 20 March 2003 (12:30): Israeli soldiers at the Al-Kasarat checkpoint stopped an ambulance in transit between Nablus and Sabastiya. The ambulance was carrying patients from the Al-Watani and Rafidiya Hospitals. After 45 minutes, and coordination with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the ambulance was allowed to pass. At the Shafi Shamron checkpoint, the same ambulance was stopped again. The Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint verbally abused the ambulance crew before allowing the ambulance to pass. After dropping the patients off, the ambulance was stopped again at the Shafi Shamron checkpoint. The soldiers again verbally assaulted the crew, and detained them for half an hour.

Nablus, 17 March 2003 (13:30): An ambulance left Rafidiya hospital transporting patients to Sebastiya. At the Qusin checkpoint, Israeli soldiers made the ambulance wait for one hour and 15 minutes, before even beginning to check the ambulance. The soldiers obliged the patients to leave the ambulance, and questioned the EMTs about the patients' conditions. A soldier verbally abused the driver, alleged that the ambulance was being used as a taxi, and insisted that the amputee, man with a back problem, kidney patient, and epileptic man who were riding in the ambulance were not patients. The soldier told the driver that the soldier had the right to say whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and that he was ready to shoot the driver to get rid of him. He yelled at the driver to take the rest of the crew and patients and leave, and threatened to shoot and kill the driver if he ever saw the driver at the checkpoint again. The ambulance was forced to turn back.

Nablus, 15 March 2003 (08:00): At the Shafi Shamron checkpoint, Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance that was going to pick up a patient in Sabastiya. The ambulance was detained for one and a half hours. The ambulance crew coordinated with the ICRC, and was eventually allowed to pass.

Ramallah, 15 March 2003 (18:50): Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance at the Deir Sharaf intersection, as it was transporting patients from Ramallah to Tulkarem. The soldiers made the ambulance crew strip off their upper clothes, and took the crew members' IDs. The soldiers left without giving the IDs back to the ambulance crew, telling them to wait where they were. In half an hour the soldiers returned, gave back the IDs, and allowed the ambulance to continue on its way.

Jericho, 18 March 2003 (09:35): At the Al-Zayim checkpoint, an ambulance carrying an unconscious cancer patient was stopped by Israeli soldiers. The patient was going to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. The soldiers searched the ambulance for 20 minutes, and then forced the ambulance to turn back to Jericho, denying it permission to pass, saying that it had no permit to go to Jerusalem.

Jericho, 15 March 2003 (09:00): At the Al-Zayim checkpoint, Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance that was transporting patients from Jericho to Jerusalem. The ambulance was detained for one hour, and was ultimately refused passage, despite the fact that one of the passengers was in bad condition and was going for an operation. The reason given for this denial was that the ambulance had no permit to go to Jerusalem.

Bethlehem, 15 March 2003 (17:45): An ambulance carrying a patient from Bethlehem to the eye hospital in Jerusalem was stopped at the Gilo checkpoint. The Israeli soldiers ordered the ambulance crew to turn around. The ambulance crew called the ambulance station to coordinate with the ICRC. The soldiers told the ambulance crew to either coordinate with an Israeli ambulance company, or go back to Bethlehem. After one and a half hours, the ambulance was allowed to pass.

These incidents constitute a breach of articles (19,24 & 25) of the First Geneva Convention, which guarantees the protection of medical units, establishments and personnel as well as articles (27, 55 and 56) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which calls for the protection of civilians.

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