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'Hospitals must be safe': MSF demands access to Palestinian patient

Nov. 13, 2015 8:04 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 6, 2016 2:34 P.M.)
A photo of the al-Ahli hospital following an Israeli raid on Nov.12.
By: Charlie Hoyle
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Doctors without Borders (MSF) on Friday demanded access to a patient kidnapped by undercover Israeli forces from a Hebron hospital a day earlier, condemning the violation of the special status of the sick and wounded under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

Azzam Ezzat Shalaldah, 20, was kidnapped by Israeli undercover forces disguised as Palestinian civilians at dawn on Thursday in a raid which saw his cousin, Abdullah Shalaldah, 28, who was visiting him at the time, shot at least three times in the head and upper body.

"It is not acceptable for armed people to enter a hospital and take a patient as a prisoner. We are asking Israeli authorities to respect International Humanitarian Law and the special status that is afforded to sick and wounded people," Cristina Carreno Glaria, medical coordinator at MSF, told Ma'an.

"We have to make sure that patients in hospitals are safe."

Abdullah and another relative were in the hospital visiting Azzam when around 20 undercover Israeli soldiers entered the hospital at around 2:45 a.m., witnesses said.

During the raid, Azzam's cousin, Abdullah, was shot and killed while coming out of a bathroom in the hospital ward. His other cousin, Bilal, who was in the room with Azzam, was handcuffed during the incident, but not detained.

Azzam, who was detained during the undercover raid, was still in recovery after undergoing three surgeries at the hospital where he was admitted in October.

He was shot five times by an Israeli settler in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc area on Oct. 25, with Israel's army reporting at the time that a settler was stabbed after exiting his vehicle when stones were thrown at his car.

A spokesperson did not have any information on whether the suspect had been shot or detained after the event, only noting that they had "fled the scene."

Palestinian witnesses told Ma'an that they believed the alleged Palestinian attacker fled the scene unharmed and that Azzam had been working in agricultural fields when he was shot.

Israeli forces raided the area and shot at least seven Palestinians in the nearby village of Sair, with one of the victims sustaining serious wounds in the eye, while another man was hit with a live round in his thigh, according to local medics.

Azzam was taken to the al-Ahli hospital to be treated for his injuries, which were described as severe.

Glaria from MSF said that he was one of many patients receiving psycho-social support following traumatic injuries as part of the mental health programs the group runs in Jenin, Hebron, Nablus, Qalqiliya and East Jerusalem.

He had undertaken three sessions with MSF in the 20 or so days he had been recovering at the hospital, including an initial crisis intervention and two other sessions with a psychotherapist.

"Really after some days he was already improving somehow. Over 20 days little by little, he was moving forward, for sure now its like going back again. It's like carrying a backpack with stones in and then you remove some of them. Now it's like he has two backpacks."

Glaria said patients with severe physical trauma often go on to develop depression, anxiety, or PTSD, with immediate and continuous treatment after the initial incident vital to a patients' long term recovery.

If not treated, patients can also go on to experience psychosomatic symptoms, such as pain in the areas they were shot for years after they have physically recovered.

MSF has officially requested access to Azzam to continue his treatment, but have not yet received a response from Israel.

"We are demanding to see him and to keep continuing to see him, we believe that we can really offer him what he needs, he was in the beginning of the treatment."

Glaria said that Israeli armed forces entering a hospital and detaining patients undergoing medical care is a violation of IHL, with the group demanding any information about the current state of Azzam.

"As mental health professionals we work with the story that the patient tells us. We are not police or judges, this is not our business. Our job is to work with the suffering that the experiences have provoked."

Hospital raids routine amid violence

The detention raid by undercover Israeli forces on Nov. 12, and the "extra-judicial execution" of the patient's cousin, is the most egregious example of a number of violations of Palestinian health care facilities over the past month by Israeli armed forces, despite the protection afforded to civilian hospitals underthe Fourth Geneva Convention.

On Oct. 4, Israeli military forces raided the al-Arabi Hospital in Nablus disguised as Palestinians escorting a patient and detained 23-year-old Karam al-Masri at gunpoint.

The medical director of the hospital told Ma'an that undercover forces raided the hospital at 4 a.m. Video footage of the incident shows dozens of agents dressed as Palestinian civilians enter the hospital, some with hand guns, before detaining al-Masri.

The Palestinian Authority Health Minister, Jawad Awad, condemned the arrest raid, saying that IHL "prohibits attacking hospitals, and abducting patients."

In East Jerusalem, the al-Makassed hospital has been targeted as least three times by Israeli forces, who have raided the premises in the Mount of Olives and demanded staff to hand over medical files of a child who had been treated there before being arrested.

On Oct. 28, Israeli forces told staff to hand over video footage from the hospital, while a day later they fired tear gas, stun grenades, and sponge-tipped bullets at hospital staff holding a peaceful demonstration against the spate of incursions.

Last week, on Nov. 9, Israeli forces raided the hospital again and searched through data on the hospital's administrative computers, threatening to open investigations against doctors who did not report the names of patients injured during clashes to Israeli police.

A number of UN officials and medical groups have condemned the raids.

At the end of October, Medical Aid for Palestinians called for the "protection of medical infrastructure and personnel, unrestricted access to those seeking to reach and treat the wounded, and the respect for the inviolability of hospitals during the crisis."

The Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, Robert Piper, visited al-Makassed hospital on Nov. 2, accompanied by senior UN officials from UNRWA, UNSCO, UNICEF, UNFPA, WHO and OCHA, and called for an end to the violation of Palestinian health facilities.

"The conduct by the Israeli Security Forces during several entries into Makassed hospital this past week is unacceptable and must not be repeated,” he said following the visit.

“The right to health is a fundamental human right which Israel must respect and protect at all times.”
Two Sides / Both Or Neither Safe
The Palestinian side should only expect two things:
-1- To be safe on their side, when they stop making the Israeli side unsafe, and
-2- To have Israeli raids when treating either war criminals or stabbing-crime criminals, or sheltering armed militants !!
14/11/2015 00:00
Rowena / Australia
Hospitals cannot be allowed to be seen to harbor criminals and murderers, that are hiding on hospital wards.
14/11/2015 10:37
Amin / Netherlands
Invading an hospital at night and kidnapping and extra-judicial execution is a crime against humanity. Israel is an evil apartheid state.
Occupied and suppressed Palestinian people needs international protection against these criminal barbarians.
14/11/2015 11:40
Peace Or Violence / Encouragement
-1- Thousands should have encouraged this and all 23-year-olds to live peacefully, but instead he and they were encouraged to live violently, so
-2- His and their bloods are no less on Palestinian, than Israeli hands !!
14/11/2015 14:50
Mahmoud Al - Mabhouh / UAE
#Rowena: Does your comment extend to hotels too?
14/11/2015 16:58
Outlier / USA
Hospitals are for healing, but they are not sanctuaries. There must be no safe place for those who - unprovoked - attack people leading ordinary lives.
14/11/2015 18:37
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