Israel + 1 more

OPT: Weekly Press Release 7 - 14 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 were threatened by gunfire, and shelling by tanks. Delays, denial of access, and arbitrary searches adversely affected the sick and wounded in Nablus, Tubas, Tulkarem, Qalqilia, Hebron, and Gaza.
Nablus, 12 March 2003 (13:30): An ambulance transferring a patient from Nablus to Jenin was stopped at the Qusin checkpoint for 45 minutes.

Nablus, 12 March 2003 (16:15): An ambulance en route to pick up a patient in Tell Village was stopped at the Sarra checkpoint. Israeli soldiers at the checkpoint said the area was closed. After 2 hours the ambulance was allowed to pass.

Nablus, 11 March 2003 (18:15): An ambulance carrying a patient from Al-Sawia Village was stopped at the Za'atara checkpoint. The soldiers made the driver leave the vehicle, and while he was away a police officer from the settlement of Ariel approached the vehicle. The police officer declared that the passengers in the front seats of the ambulance were not wearing their seatbelts, and proceeded to fine them 250 NIS each - even the passenger who was wearing a seatbelt at the time. The ambulance was held at the checkpoint for 30 minutes.

Nablus, 10 March 2003 (06:50): Israeli soldiers at the Howwara checkpoint stopped an ambulance that was driving between the Beta and Nablus ambulance stations. The soldiers ordered the driver to take off his clothes. When he refused, the soldiers took the ambulance crew to a petrol station. At the station the crew members were forced to take off their clothes. They were detained for one hour and ten minutes, before being allowed to pass.

Tulkarem, 13 March 2003 (18:20): An ambulance carrying a kidney patient was stopped by soldiers, who took the patient's ID, and instructed the ambulance crew to drive to the Netanya checkpoint. At the checkpoint, the soldiers blindfolded the patient and took him away. The ambulance crew and patient were detained for one and a half hours before being permitted to proceed.

Tubas, 13 March 2003 (19:15): The ambulance dispatch received calls from Tamoun Village, requesting an ambulance to pick up injured persons. At the entrance to Tamoun Village, the ambulance was stopped by Israeli soldiers, who told the ambulance crew to leave. The soldiers searched the ambulance and the crew, and forbid the crew from using their radios. The soldiers then confiscated the crew's IDs, saying that they should go back to the station for half an hour and then come back to collect their IDs. After 20 minutes the ambulance returned. The soldiers returned the crew's IDs, and instructed them to leave and not come back. After the ambulance had coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the District Coordinating Office (DCO), they were still denied permission to access the victims in Tamoun. The ambulance crew was finally allowed to access the area on the next day, when it found one person injured and 5 people dead.

Qalqiliya, 8 March 2003 (01:28): An ambulance went to pick up a woman suffering from severe pulmonary distress at the Habla Gate. As it approached the DCO checkpoint, with its emergency lights flashing, Israeli soldiers detained the ambulance for 12 minutes. The soldiers at the checkpoint told the ambulance crew that they were detaining them as punishment for approaching the checkpoint with their lights flashing, and that if they passed the checkpoint they would not be allowed to return. When the ambulance reached the woman, she had no pulse. By the time she arrived at the hospital, the woman was pronounced dead.

Hebron, 12 March 2003 (17:30): Israeli soldiers stopped an ambulance at the checkpoint at the entrance to Hebron. The ambulance was returning from Al-Arub, where it had dropped off two patients. After coordinating with the ICRC, the ambulance was allowed to pass at 20:00 - two and a half hours after arriving at the checkpoint.

Gaza, 9 March 2003 (18:13) - Rafah: Upon reaching the "Block J" area to pick up injured people, an ambulance team heard gunfire and stopped their ambulance. They lit all of the lights in and on the ambulance, and turned the siren on. The gunfire stopped, and the ambulance proceeded forward. However, as the ambulance neared the source of the emergency call, a tank fired a shell in the direction of the vehicle. The ambulance crew turned back and accessed the injured people by another road.

Gaza, 9 March 2003 (19:36) - Rafah: In the Tell Al-Sultan neighborhood, Israeli soldiers fired guns in the direction of an ambulance that had all of its lights illuminated and sirens on.

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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