Medical personnel in the occupied West Bank are targeted by the Israeli occupation forces

Medical personnel in the occupied West Bank are targeted by the Israeli occupation forces

In the occupied West Bank, the war takes another form. It occurs at the doors of hospitals, inside ambulances, and even on the roofs of medical centers. Palestinian medical workers are suffering from helplessness after seeing their talents and training go to waste while Israeli military vehicles continue to prevent the wounded from reaching hospitals.

Ahmed, a nurse in a hospital center in the city of Tulkarm, north of the occupied territories, is forced to hide his identity under a pseudonym. He doesn't have time to respond to the press. Urgency, these days, is elusive. But he sends daily videos and photographs of Israeli army attacks on his city and the neighboring Nour Shams refugee camp. “Let us work,” a Palestinian doctor implores Israeli soldiers at the hospital gates. “Run, close the door, quickly!” Another voice shouts, as if the glass separating them could prevent the entry of armed recruits.

Earlier, in the same video, several military vehicles prevented the passage of ambulances and searched the interior of the only car that was able to reach the medical center. For frustrated healthcare staff, if they don't want to be caught, the alternative is to record the assaults. The paramedics watch helplessly as the soldiers carry the wounded man to the stretcher, and minutes later, with blood still running down his cheeks, they handcuff him. With their rifles raised, the soldiers returned the empty bed to them. Every day a new group of Ahmed's videos passes. This time, ambulances were seen surrounded by tear gas smoke. Paramedics lock and lock doors as they knock. At the entrance to the hospital's emergency room, another video clip appeared showing Israeli soldiers inside an ambulance checking that the injured person was indeed injured.

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He added, “These attacks are part of his policy of collective punishment [Israel] “In Nour Shams refugee camp,” Ahmed explains hurriedly in a voice note to this newspaper. While his words speak to his reality, they are perfectly applicable to what the Palestinian community is experiencing throughout the occupied West Bank. “Because rural people love endurance [palestina armada]“We are known as the popular incubator that maintains the resistance,” adds this Palestinian nurse.

Although Tulkarm was already one of the places most attacked by the Israeli army before October 7, the situation has worsened since then and the war has torn apart the health system. “The medical staff – doctors, nurses, paramedics and ambulance drivers – are on the front line,” says Catherine Keswani, MSF representative in this city.

like never before

This worker acts as a point of contact between the humanitarian organization and local workers, and also relays their messages. “There is no respect for their work,” he points out. During nearly two decades of working in zones of conflict and natural disasters, Kiswani had to travel all the way to Tulkarm, an unofficial region at war, to find something rare. This Swedish nurse told El Periodico newspaper: “This is the first time an ambulance driver has asked me for a bulletproof vest. Israel has made them a target and they know it.” Since the beginning of the war on the Gaza Strip, more than three months ago, medical centers and vehicles have been subjected to attacks by the Israeli army, which violates international laws requiring respect for these civilian infrastructure.

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An investigation by AJ+, Healthcare Workers Watch and Voices of Doctors in Gaza reported that since October 7, Israeli forces have arrested 110 Palestinian health workers. The people who were released admitted that they were victims of torture, an illegal practice under international law. Although most of the testimonies come from Gaza, voices are beginning to appear in the occupied territories with the same story. “The first thing the Israeli army does when the incursion begins is to go to the hospital entrances and block access to the wounded; they are all subjected to inspection,” says Irene Huertas, MSF coordinator in Jenin, the worst-hit city. With the largest death toll outside Gaza.

“If there are boys who are injured, even if they are not suspects or part of the resistance, they are very afraid to get into the ambulance and go to the hospital,” Huertas explains to this newspaper. These people do not want to increase the number of Palestinians arrested during the last three months, which has reached more than 5,000 people. “Now, when there is an incursion that can last for hours or even a day, neither the wounded nor anyone dares to take them to hospitals, because the first ones the Israeli army targets are the ambulance drivers and paramedics who go there.” “They are afraid to get to the hospital,” Huertas adds. In Palestinian hospitals, shootings occurred, live ammunition and tear gas were fired, and doctors were forced to strip and kneel in the streets, according to Doctors Without Borders.

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Attacking hospitals and preventing aid from reaching the wounded may constitute war crimes. But although Israel did not stop these actions, the Palestinians had to look for alternatives to save their lives. For this reason, stabilization points have been set up in the alleyways of refugee camps where they can access vital medical assistance, and organizations such as Médecins Sans Frontières train residents and provide them with basic knowledge.

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