LONDON, Tuesday, July 18, 2023 (WAFA) – Amid a serious rise in attacks on frontline health workers in the occupied West Bank this year, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) has agreed to supply bulletproof vests to Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) emergency medical teams as they continue to provide life-saving medical care to Palestinians impacted by escalating Israeli settler and military violence, according to a press statement.
As the dire health and humanitarian situation in the West Bank continues to deteriorate, emergency medical responders seeking to reach and treat the sick and wounded continue to experience violent attacks and systematic obstruction in what an independent UN Commission of Inquiry described as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a healthcare worker,” it added.
Melanie Ward, MAP’s CEO, said: “We have taken this unprecedented step in response to an urgent call from Palestinian health workers for protection from the violence they face in the line of duty. Last week in Jenin, I heard for myself from PRCS paramedics why this equipment is so needed. 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.”
MAP will provide the PRCS with 20 bulletproof vests and helmets, amounting to $24,000. This comes as part of its ongoing West Bank emergency response this year, which has so far included supplying essential medicines and equipment to hospitals and urgent care centers dealing with the influx of injuries, providing first aid kits to first responders and medical volunteers, and delivering trauma care training to medical staff and paramedics.
The PRCS have reported that their medical teams experienced 193 separate violations in the first six months of 2023, marking a 310% increase compared to the same period in 2022.
This includes physical assaults, targeting with live ammunition and other weapons by Israeli forces, and repeated obstruction while trying to reach and transport the wounded.
Last year 105 paramedics were injured while on duty, including as a result of live ammunition and rubber-coated steel bullets.
Ahmed Jibril, Head of the Emergency and Ambulance Department at PRCS in Nablus said, “This generous support from MAP is a testament to their commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our healthcare workers. 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.”
During the Israeli military raid on Jenin refugee camp earlier this month, the protected status of health workers and facilities under international humanitarian law was again violated, and ambulance access to the wounded obstructed.
In one incident, Israeli forces confiscated the keys of two ambulances and seized the mobile phones of a team who were trying to respond to an emergency call. In another, an ambulance going to pick up a pregnant woman in labor was obstructed while they tried to transport her to hospital.
At the same time as emergency medical teams are under increasing threat, the need for their services has increased as a result of growing violence against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The killing of 12 Palestinians in an Israeli military raid on Jenin refugee camp last week has resulted in 2023 becoming the deadliest year in the West Bank since 2005, with at least 157 Palestinians killed overall, including 26 children, by Israeli soldiers and settlers.
MAP is also calling for the international community to take urgent action to address attacks against Palestinian health workers, including by ensuring that violations of international law are met with meaningful accountability.