Ambulances and hospital under attack amid dangerous escalation in the West Bank

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) is gravely concerned by the dangerous escalation in the West Bank, including attacks against Palestinian ambulances and a hospital.

According to UN OCHA, since 9 December five Palestinians, two Israeli soldiers and one Israeli civilian have been killed in the West Bank during attacks, clashes and arrest operations. Over 400 Palestinians and 13 Israeli settlers were injured, and more than 200 Palestinians arrested.

On Thursday 13 December, Israeli authorities announced the city of Ramallah a closed military zone. The closure was announced following a Palestinian attack against Israeli settlers at the entrance of the illegal settlement of Ofra, east of Ramallah killing two Israeli soldiers and injuring seven Israelis.

Since Thursday, Israeli forces have carried out widespread search and arrest operations throughout the West Bank and greatly restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement. This has obstructed Palestinians’ access to vital and potentially life-saving medical care.

Several Palestinian ambulances, trying to reach, treat and transfer injured or sick Palestinians, have been delayed or come under attack. On Friday, Israeli forces opened fire at a Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) ambulance in al-Bireh City. The PRCS reported that the ambulance was travelling to the Deir Dibwan village in the Ramallah and al-Bireh district, to transport a patient to a hospital, when it came under attack by Israeli forces at the Beit El checkpoint.

On Saturday evening, 68-year-old Sumayya Mahmoud Nasser died of a heart attack at Al-Aqsa Mosque in East Jerusalem, after Israeli forces prevented ambulances from reaching her. The PRCS reported that medics at the mosque provided first aid to Sumayya after she lost consciousness and called for an ambulance to transfer her to a hospital. Israeli forces reportedly prevented the ambulance from reaching her for approximately eight minutes. The following day, Israeli forces opened fire at an ambulance in Silwad town.

In Ramallah a Palestinian hospital also came under attack. On Saturday, several patients at the Palestinian Medical Centre suffered from severe teargas inhalation after Israeli forces heavily targeted the area with teargas.

Settler violence has also threatened the work of Palestinian ambulances. According to OCHA, Israeli settlers have protested at road junctions in the West Bank and, at several protests, stones have been thrown at Palestinian vehicles, including at an ambulance. On Thursday evening, Israeli settlers attacked a PRCS ambulance in the district of Hebron. PRCS said that the ambulance was transporting a Palestinian patient to a hospital in Hebron City, when it came under attack. This forced the ambulance driver to turn back.

On Saturday, Palestinian press reported in the al-Amaari refugee camp, south of Ramallah, Israeli forces destroyed the home of the Abu Hmeid family. Israeli forces evacuated all neighboring homes in the cold, effecting around 400 Palestinians, including a pregnant woman in labour. They were kept in a field, where a PRCS ambulance was then able to evacuate the pregnant woman and take her to a hospital in Ramallah.

MAP calls on the UK Government and the international community to reiterate their commitment to strengthening international law pertaining to respect for and protection of medical personnel and facilities, including by promoting adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016).

To learn more about attacks against Palestinian healthcare read Chapter 2 of our Health Under Occupation Report, Protection.

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