Medicins du Monde (MdM), Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) and the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UPMRC) have condemned Israeli actions during a massive military crackdown around the town of Nablus that began last week.

“Two Palestinians were shot and seriously injured in Nablus and taken to Rafidiya hospital last week,” said Miri Weingarten, a spokesperson for PHR-Israel, on Wednesday.

“They were taken into intensive care and operated on,” she added. “But they were still on resuscitation machines when the Israelis came to arrest them.”

The soldiers entered the hospital in force on the night of 25 August and seized the two men - Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members Fahd Bin Hodi and Uthman Yunis. The move which put the patients’ lives in danger, said Weingarten, speaking from Tel Aviv.

“It was a total violation of medical ethics and international conventions,” she said. PHR-Israel later sent two doctors to check the Palestinians but were not allowed to see the men. The two were under armed guard but were believed to have survived the move and were reportedly in stable condition.

Assistance denied

The groups say such actions are part of a brutal pattern in which Israeli troops invade and damage medical facilities, restrict medical staff’s movements and routinely deny aid to those in need – actions that contravene the Geneva Conventions, among other humanitarian laws.

MdM says its staff saw Israeli troops refusing to let a UPMRC emergency team provide first aid to civilians confined to a building in Nablus on 28 August. Elsewhere, Israeli troops prevented UPMRC staff trying to give medical aid to Palestinians in the Balata refugee camp and tore up their ID cards.

The medical aid groups say Israeli troops who put patients’ lives in danger and seriously breach international and ethical conventions can act with impunity, knowing the Israeli courts and an inattentive international community will not take them to task.

"A woman from Salim lost her baby at a checkpoint near Nablus"

Miri Weingarten,
spokesperson, PHR-Israel

“A woman from Salim lost her baby at a checkpoint near Nablus recently because they wouldn’t let her through,” said Weingarten, “but the soldiers know there will be no ramifications for their actions.”

The Israeli army could not be reached for comment. But the military has consistently said its soldiers, operating in difficult circumstances, need to take a tough approach for security reasons.

The medical aid organisations sharply disagree, however.

“There is no justification for their actions,” said Weingarten. “The conventions are designed for times of fighting, including active combat. Ambulances and medical staff should be allowed to pass freely, facilities should be kept open … but these violations are routine, and not just happening in Nablus.”