Palestinian medics to get body armour due to dangers from Israeli raids

Palestinian medics to get body armour due to dangers from Israeli raids
Frontline medical workers in the occupied West Bank will be provided with bulletproof jackets and helmets amid a spate of Israeli assaults on Palestinian cities.
5 min read
18 July, 2023
Palestinian medics will be provided with bulletproof vests and helmets [MAP/TNA]

Medics in the occupied West Bank will be provided with body armour amid a wave of Israeli military and settler attacks, which left almost 160 Palestinians dead so far this year and dozens of health workers injured.

Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) announced on Tuesday it would take the unprecedented step of donating 20 bulletproof vests and helmets to the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) due to the dangers faced by frontline medical workers in the occupied West Bank.

Palestinian medics say they have been repeatedly and directly targeted by Israeli forces or blocked from carrying out their duties.

PCRS health workers reported 193 separate violations in the first six months of 2023, more than three times the number between January and June 2022.

Aseel Baidoun, MAP's advocacy and campaigns manager, told The New Arab that due to the dangers faced by medics in the occupied West Bank, the NGO has been forced to provide body armour and helmets to the PRCS workers.

"The unjustifiable impunity that the international community is granting Israel leading MAP to provide bulletproof vests and helmets to frontline paramedics," Baidoun said.

"International law was unable to protect them as it should, so now we have to find ways to protect themselves. Imagine evacuating an injured person while wearing a very heavy vest and facing the fear that the Israeli army will directly target you with zero accountability."

Palestinian medical workers have been provided with protection by MAP [MAP/TNA]
Palestinian medical workers have been provided with body protection by MAP [MAP/TNA]

This year has been the bloodiest in the West Bank since 2005, with at least 157 Palestinians, including 27 children, killed by Israeli soldiers and settlers so far.

Baidoun said that the accelerated violence against Palestinians in the West Bank has created more obstacles for healthcare workers and greater risks for medics.

"Their job is to save lives and recently we’ve seen two major trends in violations against healthcare workers: one, a spike in the overall number of violations against healthcare, and two, an increase in particular in the systematic obstruction, delays or even denial of access to the wounded amid raids on cities across the West Bank," Baidoun told The New Arab.

"Healthcare workers are always telling us they feel at risk of being targeted. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, they should be protected."

Since the appointment of far-right settler activists to key government posts in December, Israeli forces have ramped up violent raids on Palestinian towns and villages, including a fierce assault on Jenin refugee camp this month which left 12 Palestinians dead.

Melanie Ward, MAP’s CEO, last week said that the Jenin assault, which included bombings from the air, highlighted the desperate need for protection for health workers.

"This week in Jenin, I heard for myself from PRCS paramedics why this equipment is so needed," Ward said.

"No health worker should have to risk their life to save others, and so ensuring their safety is of paramount importance to ensuring that they can continue to provide unimpeded access to healthcare for Palestinians in need."

Among the attacks on health workers that the PRCS highlighted were physical assaults, live rounds fired at medics, and soldiers obstructing ambulances.

Last month, Israeli settlers near Ramallah attacked a Palestinian ambulance, targeted journalists, and shot at homes, according to Umm Safa Mayor Marwan Sabbah.

From Jenin, video footage emerged this week allegedly showing Israeli soldiers obstructing paramedics attempting to rush a pregnant woman to hospital who was going into labour. Another ambulance was turned away as it attempted to reach the injured in the refugee camp.

Ahmed Jibril, Head of the Emergency and Ambulance Department at PRCS in Nablus, said that the bulletproof jackets will provide vital protection for medics amid the Israeli violence.

"This generous support from MAP is a testament to their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our healthcare workers," he said in a statement.

"With the increasing risks faced by our teams, most recently seen in Jenin, these bulletproof vests and helmets will provide a crucial layer of protection, allowing our teams to continue saving lives and providing essential medical services in the face of adversity."

Palestinian healthcare workers in Gaza have also been frequent victims of Israeli shootings and airstrikes. Palestinian medics were targeted in 2018 as they attempted to treat protesters injured by Israeli sniper fire on the Gaza border, health workers have said.

Twenty-one-year-old Razan Al-Najjar was shot dead by a sniper during the Gaza demonstrations that year despite wearing a white medical jacket.

"Although there has been a significant increase this year, attacks on healthcare have been a consistent feature of Israel’s systematic discrimination and fragmentation of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Palestinian healthcare workers, unfortunately, have always been in the firing line," said Baidoun.

"At MAP, we call on states to strengthen the protection of medical personnel and facilities in the occupied Palestinian territory by promoting adherence to UN Security Council Resolution 2286 (2016), and supporting genuine investigations and accountability where violations have occurred, including through the UN Commission of Inquiry on the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel."

In a statement to The New Arab, the Israeli military said it had no complaints of medical staff being targetted, adding that it was in "constant dialogue" with Palestinian officials to avoid non-combatants being affected by military assaults