MDA, Palestinian Red Crescent respond to attacks

Staff and volunteers from both Israeli and Palestinian humanitarian organisations, Magen David Adom (MDA) and the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) have been called on in the past 24 hours as violence continues in the Middle East.
Early on Wednesday afternoon, a suicide bomber killed 11 people, most of them university students, on a bus in a residential area of the Israeli city of Haifa. Some 40 people were injured in the attack. It was the first attack of its kind in Israel for two months.

The MDA, the Israeli equivalent of a Red Cross or Red Crescent society, dispatched 60 emergency response vehicles, including 11 mobile intensive care units and one multi-casualty response vehicle. The first ambulance arrived within three minutes of the blast. In total 100 staff and volunteers were mobilised.

"At the same time the emergency plan was immediately activated, which means that volunteers go directly to the scene and find their equipment there, so no time is lost," said Chaim Rafalowski, head of the MDA Emergency Department.

"We knew it was a blast in a closed environment. Under these circumstances, we knew there would be a large number of casualties," he added. Rafalowski said the injured were suffering from severe burns and severe internal injuries.

As well as responding to the incident, treating the injured and transferring them to three local hospitals, the MDA also provided about 150 blood units to the hospitals.

"We had reinforced our capabilities because of the possibility of conflict in Iraq and we therefore had more ambulances in Haifa than normally, because of the state of alert," Rafalowski said.

Just hours after the bomb attack, the Israeli Defence Forces launched a raid on the Jabaliya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. Eleven people died in the attack and 150 were injured.

"The Israeli incursion into Jabaliya started at 11 pm on Wednesday. PRCS ambulances were totally blocked from reaching the scene until seven o'clock this morning," PRCS spokesman Hossam Sharkawi said.

He said that PRCS teams managed to transfer the injured to nearby hospitals. Among the wounded were four PRCS medics. They were hurt when a shell exploded near the two ambulances in which they were travelling.