On 18 January, a peaceful demonstration took place in al-Jiftlek village, located north of Jericho and close to Road 90. The approximately 300 participants, both Palestinian and foreign, were protesting against Israeli plans to annex the Jordan Valley and were carrying Palestinian flags and banners.
Firas Mahmoud Fashafsha – Nablus
At approximately 11:25 am, an ambulance from the Palestinian Union of Health Care Committees arrived at the scene of the protest with a team of paramedics and a nurse. Palestinian ambulances and medical personnel regularly attend protests in Area C as a precautionary measure. Firas, 34, one of the paramedics, recalls that when the team stepped out of the vehicle they saw four armed Israeli soldiers located approximately five meters away from the ambulance and the protestors. Within half an hour, six Israeli military jeeps had arrived in the area, along with approximately 25 soldiers.
At around 12:10 pm, the protest, which had taken place peacefully, was coming to an end and the participants were walking along Road 90, towards al-Jiftlek village. Firas recalls that the protestors were followed along the road by the Israeli soldiers, who were attempting to provoke them. The officer in charge confronted two of the Palestinians, which led to a tussle between the soldiers and the two men. Shortly afterwards, the soldiers started beating the two men with their hands and rifles. Some of the other Palestinians present attempted to defend them but were subsequently also beaten by the Israeli soldiers. Firas witnessed one of the men, Ahmad, 21, fall on the ground while three soldiers beat him all over his body with their rifles and hands. The second man involved in the tussle was beaten in a similar manner.
Five minutes later, Firas, the paramedics and some foreign activists were able to rescue Ahmad from the Israeli soldiers and put him in the ambulance. Meanwhile, the soldiers arrested one of the foreign activists. Before the paramedics could provide medical assistance to Ahmad, seven soldiers surrounded the ambulance. They ordered the driver to turn off the ignition and give them the key, but he refused. The paramedics were then forced at gunpoint to disembark from the ambulance and were prohibited from providing medical aid to Ahmad. Firas heard one of his colleagues scream so he turned around to see that he was lying on the ground and that another colleague was being held around the neck by an Israeli soldier.
By that point, three Israeli soldiers had entered the ambulance. One of the soldiers shot four live bullets through the ambulance door towards Firas and the crewand two other soldiers dragged Ahmad out of the ambulance and arrested him. The bullets shot by the soldier were intended to prevent the paramedics from coming closer to the ambulance and Ahmad. Three soldiers then led Ahmad, who was limping on his right leg, towards a military jeep. They pushed him against the door of the jeep, tied his hands behind his back and blindfolded him, before putting him inside the jeep.
Firas spoke to the officer in charge and told him that Ahmad was wounded and bruised and that he required medical assistance. The officer claimed that there was a doctor in the jeep but when Firas asked to speak to the doctor, the officer refused. The officer ordered Firas to leave and threatened to arrest him. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9306/2014)
Al-Haq condemns the ill-treatment suffered by the paramedics and Palestinian civilians at the hands of the Israeli soldiers. Under customary international humanitarian law, medical personnel must be respected and protected in all circumstances. Article 19 of Geneva Convention I forbids under all circumstances attacks against stationary and mobile medical units, including ambulances. Moreover, the Israeli soldiers’ actions violated Ahmad’s right to health. As the Occupying Power, Israel is bound by Article 12 (1) of the International Covenant of Economic Social and Cultural Rights, which requires States Parties to recognise the right of everyone to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.