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Despite Humanitarian Truce, IOF Target Medical Personnel and Ambulances and Obstruct their Movement<br>Five Ambulance Personnel Killed by IOF since the Start of OPE

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26 July 2014 |Reference 68/2014

A humanitarian truce was announced last night and started at 8 am today, Saturday 26 July 2014.
It comes after 18 days of continuous armed attacks on the Gaza Strip.
The truce aims, among other things, to enable the recovery of people who were killed or injured in various areas of the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights monitoring indicates that the Israeli occupation forces (IOF) have attacked and/or obstructed the movement of medical and rescue teams as they started to dig for and transfer the victims; many have already started to decompose many days after they were killed.
These acts come after days of IOF attacks on ambulances trying to access the injured and/or deceased, even in cases where coordination was confirmed for these ambulances to access them via the International Committee of the Red Cross, who have made relentless efforts to secure such coordination.
Al Mezan condemns all the attacks as well as obstructions of medical and rescue teams, which represent violations of international humanitarian law.
International community must condemn these violations and ensure the safety and unobstructed access of medical teams.
According to Al Mezan's monitoring, the IOF has killed five medics and wounded 16 since the start of Operation Protective Edge on 7 July 2014.
The IOF also destroyed 20 ambulances during the same period.
IOF attacked hospitals and medical crews dozens of times; rendering at least four of them non-operative and destroying one completely.
Attacks on the Balsam hospital and the Beit Hanoun hospital; both located in the town of Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip, were unable to carry out any functions following frequent IOF attacks on them.
The same applies to the Algerian hospital in the east of Khan Younis, south of the Gaza Strip.
The Al Wafa hospital was totally destroyed after the IOF bombarded it over a dozen times.
The Al Aqsa hospital, which is the main public hospital serving the population of the Middle Gaza district, was directly bombed by the IOF, killing and injuring patients, visitors as well as some of its personnel.
Last night, the Kamal Odwan hospital, which is the main public hospital in the North Gaza district, was targeted directly by the IOF, causing damages to the maternity department and forcing the evacuation of the patients and personnel.
One of the ambulance centers of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society in northern Gaza area, which is an ICRC affiliate, was rendered non-functional following two IOF attacks in its vicinity, which injured four medics.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, the IOF launched the following attacks, which killed ambulance personnel: - At approximately 4.
30pm on Friday 25 July 2014, the IOF fired several shells at a Palestinian Red Cross ambulance (a Volkswagen vehicle exhibiting the number 511) which was evacuating the injured from the Al Masree’een Street area in Beit Hanoun in the north of the Gaza Strip.
The ambulance was directly hit and as a result, a volunteer medic ‘Aa’id Mahmoud Al Bor’ee, 28, was killed and a volunteer medic Hatim As’ad Shaheen, 38, and the ambulance driver, Jawad Fayez Bdeer, 50, were injured.
The ambulance vehicle itself was completely destroyed.
The volunteer medic Hatim Shaheen told Al Mezan that the ambulance crew had gone to evacuate wounded that they had been told were in the centre of Al Masree’een Street and that when they entered the street – which is near Beit Hanoun Hospital – the ambulance was shelled, as a result of which he was injured and the ambulance set on fire.
Hatim Shaheen then got out of the ambulance and walked to Beit Hanoun Hospital, helped by a few young men.
When he reached Beit Hanoun Hospital, he was taken by ambulance to Al Awda Hospital in Jabalia.
After he was treated for his injuries he learned from his colleagues that Jawad Bdeer had, with some difficulty, managed to reach Beit Hanoun Hospital and that he was in ‘good’ condition.
He also learned that ‘Aa’id Al Bor’ee had been killed while he was in the ambulance.
Al Mezan also knew that at approximately 5.
20 pm on the same Friday, 25 July 2014, an Israeli armored bulldozer and a tank advanced to the ambulance's location and moved it out of the street under heavy firing.
Later, att approximately 5.
35 pm, a Red Crescent ambulance (a GMC vehicle exhibiting the number 507) driven by Rami Khamees Al Haj Ali, and carrying the medic Yosri Al Masri and the volunteer medic Mohammed Harb, arrived in the area where the destroyed ambulance was.
The Red Crescent had coordinated with the International Committee of the Red Cross to evacuate the dead body of the medic ‘Aa’id Al Bor’ee.
However, IOF vehicles opened fire directly at the ambulance, injuring the driver Rami Khamees Mousa Al Haj Ali, 32.
Medical sources in Kamal Odwan Hospital described his injuries as moderate.
Rami Ali told Al Mezan that the ambulance that they were travelling in reached the entrance to the Al Masree’een Street from where they could see the ambulance that had been hit lying on the side of the road, approximately 50 meters to the east of the entrance to the street.
They could also see the IOF vehicles.
The IOF vehicles then opened fire at them, not giving them a chance to approach further.
The ambulance crew therefore withdrew from the area and went to the nearby Beit Hanoun Hospital.
There, Rami Ali realised that he had been injured in his left leg by shrapnel.
The ambulance that he had been in was left at Beit Hanoun Hospital as it had been damaged in the attack and another Red Crescent ambulance took him to Kamal Odwan Hospital.
In spite of having obtained prior coordination with the IOF via the ICRC, the Red Crescent was not able to reach the ambulance that had been destroyed or the body of the medic ‘Aa’id Al Bor’ee until 8.
30 am on Saturday 26 July 2014 (the next day).
- At approximately 11:10 pm on Friday 25 July 2014, IOF opened fire at an ambulance crew as they were trying to carry a disabled man from the Al Ma'ari neighborhood, east of the Al Qarara town in the east of Khan Younis district.
This attack occurred despite the prior coordination for the ambulance to reach this area via the ICRC, which means the IOF had confirmed that the ambulance would be allowed to reach the area.
As a result of the attack, a medic, Mohammed Hassan Al Abadla, 32, was injured when he was outside the vehicle.
Under the fire, the ambulance driver drove away.
Communication with the injured medic was cut and he stayed in the area for half an hour, during which he bled to death.
The ICRC had to coordinate again for his fellow medics to reach him.
They found him dead.
- In a previous attack, the IOF fired artillery shells at about 8:30 am on Sunday 20 July 2014, at an ambulance operated by the Palestinian Medical Services, killing one of the medics, Zuheir Fuad Jaber, 35, who is from the northern Gaza Strip.
The shelling destroyed the ambulance completely as it was trying to reach the Al Mansoura Street in the Shejai'ya neighborhood in eastern Gaza City, responding a call to rescue dead and injured people in houses the street.
In another incident, IOF artillery shelled a second ambulanced operated by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society as it was trying to reach injured people in the same neighborhood.
This second attack killed a volunteer medic , Ibrahim Salem Sahbani, 22.
Today, medical crews recovered the body of a third medic, Salim Khalil Al Shamali, 27.
Since the start of IOF's ground invasion into the Gaza Strip, the IOF obstructed ambulance access, preventing them from evacuating injured people.
At a time when the PRCS and ICRC were receving hundreds of rescue calls from trapped and injured people, informing of the presence of wounded and sick people; especially in areas eastern areas of the Gaza Strip, Al Sheja'ya, Al SHa'af, Al Tiffah in Gaza City; Az-Zanna, Bani Suheila and Al Qarara in Khan Younis district, the northern parts of Beit Hanoun and the western parts of Beit Lahiya in the North Gaza district, and the easter parts of Wadi Al Salqa and the refugee camps of Al Bureij and Al Maghazi in the Middle Gaza district.
Attacks on hospitals, medical personnel and ambulances represent serious violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) during times of armed conflict.
The Fourth Geneva Convention accords special protection for hospitals and medical personnel during such times.
Articles 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21 in the Convention.
Article 18 states that 'Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the conflict'.
Article 20 of the same Convention adds that 'Persons regularly and solely engaged in the operation and administration of civilian hospitals, including the personnel engaged in the search for, removal and transporting of and caring for wounded and sick civilians, the infirm and maternity cases, shall be respected and protected'.
Parties to the conflict must be allowed to access/retrieve their injured, required by customary international law reflected in article 10(2) of Additional Protocol I: “In all circumstances [the wounded, sick] shall be treated humanely and shall receive, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay, the medical care and attention required by their condition.
There shall be no distinction among them founded on any grounds other than medical ones.
” Article 12 of the same protocol states that “[M]edical units shall be respected and protected at all times and shall not be the object of attack.
” Whenever possible, the Parties to the conflict shall ensure that medical units are so sited that attacks against military objectives do not imperil their safety.
” And Article 13(1) states that “[T]he protection to which civilian medical units are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to commit, outside their humanitarian function, acts harmful to the enemy.
Protection may, however, cease only after a warning has been given setting, whenever appropriate, a reasonable time-limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.
” Article 21 of the Protocol also states that “[M]edical vehicles shall be respected and protected in the same way as mobile medical units under the Conventions and this Protocol.
” Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights strongly condemns the IOF attacks on medical facilities and personnel in the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan reiterates the condemnation by the ICRC's condemnation of the armed attack on the Al Aqsa hospital.
Such attacks, together with the obstruction and/or prevention of medical access to the injured and infirm represent grave violations of international law that may amount to war crimes.
In light of the above, and Al Mezan monitoring of serious attacks on civilians and civilian targets in the Gaza Strip during the past 16 days, Al Mezan calls on international community to: Intervene urgently to protect civilians and civilian property; particularly health facilities and personnel, in the Gaza Strip; Condemn all attacks that are directed at civilians or civilian objects and demand that they are halted immediately and investigated as per the standards provided by international law; Support the investigation of violations of international human rights and humanitarian laws in the context of the ongoing Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.