Israeli soldiers attack medics treating injured Palestinian in Jordan Valley
Israeli military soldiers were documented assaulting two Palestinian medics and an injured Palestinian protester while being treated inside an ambulance in the Jordan Valley on Tuesday.
Video footage of the attack went viral on Palestinian social media overnight, as people shared the disturbing footage showing armed Israeli soldiers attempting to forcefully remove the injured protester from an ambulance as he was being treated by medics for a rubber bullet wound that he sustained minutes earlier.
'This is one of the ongoing and escalating Israeli violations that disregard human life, and international humanitarian laws'
- Mai al-Kaila, Palestinian Minister of Health
The young man, Fadi al-Wahdan, 25, told Middle East Eye that he was shot at “point-blank range” with a rubber-coated steel bullet by an Israeli soldier during a peaceful protest on Tuesday in the Jordan Valley town of Tayaseer.
“Yesterday we decided to stage a demonstration against the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Jordan Valley, and the continued confiscation of our land by the Israeli occupation,” al-Wahdan, a farmworker, told MEE.
The group of protesters was heading towards the hamlet of Khirbet Humsah, which was completely demolished by Israeli forces earlier this month, when they were surrounded by Israeli soldiers near the Tayaseer military checkpoint.
“There were hundreds of us peacefully protesting when dozens of Israeli army soldiers began to attack us, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at us,” he said.
In the midst of the commotion, al-Wahdan was shot in his stomach, causing him to collapse onto the ground.
“My friend who was next to me picked me up and dragged me as fast as he could to one of the nearby ambulances,” al-Wahdan said, adding that he was falling in and out of consciousness due to the pain.
“When the medics put me onto the cot and closed the door of the ambulance, I thought I was safe, and that I was going to be treated for my injuries, so I started to calm down,” he said.
But just moments after the vehicle door had been shut, it was opened again by armed Israeli soldiers, who burst into the ambulance and began grabbing and pulling at al-Wahdan, who can be heard in the video screaming throughout the ordeal.
As the soldiers attempted to remove al-Wahdan from the ambulance, the two medics inside the vehicle struggled to hold him down and keep him from being taken. In the struggle, they were also beaten and roughed up by the soldiers.
“The soldiers were yelling at us, threatening us, and grabbing and pushing us around,” Yusef Daraghmeh, one of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) medics told MEE, adding that a number of other soldiers had surrounded the ambulance, preventing the driver from moving the vehicle forward.
'We were pleading with the soldiers to just let us treat him for his injuries,'
- Yusef Daraghmeh, Palestinian medic
“We struggled with the soldiers to hold onto the young man who was injured and to prevent them from taking him,” Daraghmeh said, adding that “we were pleading with the soldiers to just let us treat him for his injuries.”
Daraghmeh said the soldiers refused to let the ambulance move, allegedly agreeing only to allow the medics to treat al-Wahdan in the ambulance while it was parked at the checkpoint.
“The young man was in complete shock, and needed to be treated at a hospital so he could be calmed down,” Daraghmeh said.
Eventually, after close to 15 minutes and relentless pleading on the part of the medics, the Israeli soldiers let the ambulance pass with al-Wahdan to the hospital.
The attack on the medics caused uproar in Palestine, as citizens and officials alike criticised the actions of the Israeli soldiers.
“This is one of the ongoing and escalating Israeli violations that disregard human life, and international humanitarian laws,” Dr Mai al-Kaila, the Palestinian Minister of Health said in a statement.
“Medical teams, ambulances, hospitals, and patients must be protected at all times, and should not be subject to any form of danger or violation,” she said.
Israeli forces have a long history of attacking Palestinian medics and healthcare workers in the occupied territories. Last year, a UN investigation called the occupied Palestinian territories “one of the most dangerous places in the world for healthcare workers.”
In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian ambulances are often stopped for long periods of time and searched at military checkpoints, while medics have been recorded as being prevented from accessing injured Palestinians to treat them.
In a report by Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), the group recorded 386 attacks on Red Crescent workers between 2015 and 2016, and 158 injuries to medics and volunteers. The group also recorded 123 incidents of denied medical access on part of Israeli authorities.
“Under international law, we have the right as medics to treat those who need assistance, no matter the circumstances,” Daraghmeh told MEE.
“It doesn’t matter what this young man may have done, or why the Israeli soldiers wanted to detain him,” he continued, referring to al-Wahdan, “he has the right to be treated for his injuries without interference.”
If Wahdan’s injuries were more serious, Daraghmeh said, the 15 minutes in which they were delayed by the soldiers could have meant a matter of life and death for the young man.
'They never respect Palestinian ambulances or medical workers, they are always delaying us at checkpoints at their will and harassing us'
- Yusef Daraghmeh, Palestinian Red Crescent Society
Daraghmeh said he believed Israel was one of the only countries in the world to “deliberately violate the rights of medical workers.
“They never respect Palestinian ambulances or medical workers, they are always delaying us at checkpoints at their will and harassing us,” he said.
“Israel needs to respect international law, and the international community needs to hold them accountable for these kinds of violations.”
As for al-Wahdan, he said he was grateful for the “brave medics who fought to protect me and save me from being detained by the Israeli soldiers.
“If the soldiers had taken me, God forbid, I fear I would not only have never been treated for my injuries, but they would have beaten and abused me until my injuries became even worse than before.”