Palestine - Nablus
The Israeli government are claiming a bomb they found in a Palestinian ambulance is good reason to treat medical staff like potential terrorists. Irish nurse, Mary Kelly, sent back this frontline dispatch from Nablus...
25th April 2002
With reference to a statement by the Israeli Ambassador to Ireland re: Palestinian Ambulances carrying bombs I wish to refer him to a press statement by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) of March 27 2002.
The ambulance in question was carrying a mother, three children, a doctor and a medic, and was travelling from Nablus to Ramallah. It passed through four checkpoints and was searched by the Israeli Army (IDF), before it was forced to stop at a checkpoint south of Ramallah by shots fired by soldiers as the ambulance approached. All passengers were ordered out. The IDF told them that the ambulance was carrying explosives. The driver, who has been with PRCS for six years, was arrested. The others were told to leave the area.
The IDF's claim that they had arrested "militants on their most wanted list" is untrue.
The PRCS statement says: "Our message to the Israeli public is simple; you have nothing to fear from our ambulances."
Their message to the IDF states:
"1. We seek an independent inquiry of the incident.
2. That the IDF stop the attacks and dis-information campaign against the Red Crescent ambulances and staff.
3. We are proceeding with steps to prosecute Israeli Army commanders responsible for the death and injury to our medics and staff over the past weeks" The statement also calls for the release of the ambulance driver who is still being held, and also requests that the international community come and be neutral observers on the ground to prevent more bloodshed and human rights abuses.
The statement continues:
"We are amazed at how the Israeli army managed to invite the media and Press corps to the area even before confirming the presence of an explosive device. Our investigation leads us to believe that this was a staged event by the IDF in order to taint the reputation of the Red Crescent ambulances. One wonders at the perfect timing and location of the incident so close to the media, and of the IDF claim that they had arrested militants. The PRCS remains committed to providing ambulance care to all in need, both Israeli and Palestinian".
The director of the Red Crescent in Jenin was killed with a doctor when their ambulance was bombed by an IDF tank in early March 2002. Two medics were killed in Gaza and two in Turkharem. Over the past 19 months 225 medical workers have been wounded. During the past three weeks in Nablus several ambulances have been shot at.
I have witnessed first hand the constant harassment of the ambulance staff by the IDF at checkpoints. Many wounded have died due to this, and many women have given birth in horrifying circumstances while being held up at checkpoints.
Considering these attacks, the human rights abuses and the death of medical staff which are continuing daily (and deplored by concerned people in the international community), one wonders at the timing of this incident which, this author feels, was aimed at destroying the reputation of the ambulance and emergency medical relief workers who are doing such brave work in terrifying conditions.
Mary Kelly, SRN