Israel attacking Palestinian health services

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Medical relief workers organise a symbolic funeral of young Palestinian paramedic Razzan Al-Najjar, shot dead as she helped wounded Palestinians on the Gaza border

HEALTH attacks by Israelis against Palestinians persist in the occupied territories during Covid-19 pandemic, says the World Health Organisation.

In 2020 alone, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recorded 59 Israeli attacks against Palestinian health care in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Of these, 42% (25) involved obstruction to the delivery of health care services, including 12 incidents of obstructing access for ambulances to reach people who had been fatally wounded.
Meanwhile, 61% of incidents (36) involved physical violence against health workers, ambulances, and health facilities, and six incidents involved the detention of health care workers, ambulances, patients, and patient companions.
During the last three months of 2020, WHO recorded 15 health attacks in the occupied Palestinian territory.
Of these, seven involved physical attacks against health workers, ambulances, and health facilities, and nine involved obstructions to health care delivery, including five incidents of obstruction of access for health teams to persons fatally injured.
On 24 November, a Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) paramedic team was near the Tayaseer checkpoint in the northern Jordan Valley in the West Bank providing first aid to people injured during confrontations.
The PRCS team was physically attacked as they attempted to provide first aid to a person who sustained an abdominal wound from a rubber-coated bullet.
Several Israeli soldiers attempted to board the ambulance and to arrest the wounded person by force. They were unaccompanied by medical personnel.
Tear gas canisters were then fired at the ambulance, while the PRCS team was providing emergency medical services to injured persons inside the vehicle.
On 11 December, a paramedic working with the Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS) was beaten with the butt of a gun and kicked while providing first aid to persons injured during a demonstration held to protest against the expansion of a settlement and confiscation of land near Kufr Malek village in the West Bank.
The paramedic reported that Israeli soldiers sprayed pepper spray in his face and he suffered gas inhalation during the incident.
He was taken to the Palestinian Medical Complex Hospital in Ramallah after losing consciousness, was hospitalised there, returning to work from sick leave after more than a week.
During the same confrontations, two PRCS volunteers were injured after they were physically attacked while providing first aid to persons injured, sustaining several bruises.
On 4th November, 29-year-old Bilal Adnan Ayed was shot by Israeli forces while driving his car towards a checkpoint near A’warta village, northeast of Nablus district in the West Bank. Israeli forces alleged an attempted ramming.
Following the incident, the soldiers closed the road and prevented a PRCS ambulance from reaching the injured man.
An Israeli Magen David Adom ambulance later arrived, with the announcement of Bilal’s death after the transfer of his body.
Vulnerability to attacks against health care in the occupied Palestinian territory has persisted in 2020, said WHO, adding that it is working to enhance monitoring and support systems for health care workers and to strengthen the voices of those affected.
It called for the protection of health care and an end to attacks.

  • The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has expressed its ‘grave concern’ over the Israeli authorities’ arrest of a UN Palestinian employee in Jerusalem, calling for her immediate and unconditional release.

The Israeli authorities arrested United Nations employee and human rights activist, Shireen Al-Araj, on January 25, in front of the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem. She was summoned to an interrogation on charges of ‘contacting with foreign clients and persons.’
Al-Araj, who holds an Israeli ID in addition to a UN diplomatic passport, had returned to the Palestinian territories after an Israeli ban that had lasted for five years.
Her lawyer had contacted her informing her that she has to return to the Palestinian territories to renew her residency papers or she will lose her residency and become a ‘refugee’, which will deny her entry into the Palestinian territories again.
On January 24, at the border between Jordan and the Palestinian territories, Al-Araj was interrogated upon her arrival, where she was ordered to go to the Magistrate’s Court in Jerusalem the next day for further investigation by the Israeli police.
As she arrived at the court, Israeli intelligence agents stopped her near the court door, took her to her home, and confiscated her computers and mobile phones. After that, she was taken to Petah Tikva prison in central Israel.
The Israeli authorities prevented her lawyer and an Israeli lawyer appointed by the UN from meeting her or even being with her during the interrogation.
Al-Araj has been working with the UN in several organisations and programmes, including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), the United Nations Population Fund and the Office of the High Commissioner in Turkey.
This means she has a bright record in the human rights, humanitarian and service fields, which rules out the Israeli accusations against her, said Euro-Med in a press statement.
Israel restricts the work of UN workers in the Palestinian territories, despite the UN’s coordination with the Israeli authorities.
The Israeli authorities also follow a strict policy with local and international human rights defenders and impose significant restrictions on granting them entry visas to Israel or accessing the Palestinian territories.
Last October, Euro-Med Monitor had complained to the United Nations Human Rights Council about the Israeli policy towards the work of international organisations and human rights defenders in the Palestinian territories.
Euro-Med Monitor made it clear at the time that its chairman, Rami Abdu, and some of its employees are constantly subjected to Israeli harassments, distortion campaigns and movement restrictions, against the background of the organisation’s activity in exposing Israeli violations.
For his part, legal advisor at Euro-Med Monitor, Muhammad Imad, said: ‘The arrest of UN employee Shireen Al-Araj is a worrying measure that requires serious action by the UN and relevant agencies, especially since the background of the arrest and the charges against her clearly demonstrate the Israeli authorities’ violation of international legal rules that provide special protection for the UN’s employees and its agencies, which is a clear challenge to the UN agreements in the field of diplomatic and legal immunity for these groups.’
Imad said there should be a decisive intervention by the UN to prevent Israel from continuing to violate the rights guaranteed to UN employees.
Arresting Al-Araj violates many international conventions, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention without legal basis.
The Israeli authorities’ behaviour opposes the Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel, as Article 7 of the agreement stipulates that ‘States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel. In particular, States Parties shall take all appropriate steps to protect United Nations and associated personnel who are deployed in their territory.’
The Israeli authorities should immediately and unconditionally release Al-Araj, and respect the legal rules for the protection of United Nations personnel, said Euro-Med Monitor. Relevant UN agencies should investigate the incident and oblige Israel to provide explanations about its pursuit of UN employees in the Palestinian territories, it added.
Meanwhile, Israeli settlers’ disregard for the rights of Palestinians continue.
On Monday Israeli settlers grazed their cattle on cultivated Palestinian land near Yatta town, south of the West Bank city of Hebron.
Local activist Fuad al Amour, Coordinator of the Protection and Steadfastness Committee in Masafer Yatta, told Palestine news agency WAFA that a group of Israeli settlers allowed their cattle to graze on wheat and barley planted by Palestinian farmers east of the town, in an attempt to seize the land to make room for the expansion of the nearby Israeli colonial settlements of Maon and Karmiel.
He called on international human rights organisations to intervene and rein in the Israeli occupation authorities’ practices and armed settler attacks against defenceless Palestinians there.
Masafer Yatta is a collection of almost 19 hamlets which rely heavily on animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood.
Located in Area C of the West Bank, under full Israeli administrative and military control, the area has been subjected to repeated Israeli violations by settlers and soldiers targeting their main source of living – livestock.
It has been designated as a closed Israeli military zone for training since the 1980s and, accordingly, referred to as Firing Zone 918.
Israeli violations against the area include demolition of animal barns, homes and residential structures. Granting of construction permits by Israel to local Palestinians in the area is non-existent.
Settler violence against Palestinians and their property is routine in the West Bank and is rarely prosecuted by the Israeli authorities.
Settler violence includes arson of properties and mosques, stone-throwing, uprooting of crops and olive trees, and attacks on vulnerable homes and livestock, among others.
There are over 700,000 Israeli settlers living in colonial settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem in violation of international law.