Nile, occupied by the West Bank – Bassem Sadaqa points to a bullet hole lodged in the door of the ambulance driver driving, tangible evidence of what he says is a regular occurrence of Palestinian doctors who are “regularly targeted” by Israeli forces.
The father of five lives in Niilin and has been a paramedic in the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) for 20 years.
“At first I thought the ambulance had been hit by stones until I saw the hole. The shooting was not an accident, Israeli soldiers were pointing towards the ambulance while I was right next door. And it wasn’t the first time that the ambulances I drive were attacked. “
Sadaqa had been on the front line with his Palestinian medical colleagues the day this happened, fighting to save lives and rushing injured protesters to hospitals in half an hour by car.
Palestinian people protesting against the illegal establishment of another Israeli outpost on the land of their people had been confronted by Israeli settlers, leading to violence and many injuries.
Niilin is an agricultural village of more than 6,000 people who live mainly from agriculture located 17 km west of the main occupied city of Ramallah in the West Bank.
The people there are fighting to prevent the land left by the people from being expropriated by the permanent invasion of illegal Israeli settlements and outposts: they are now surrounded by the illegal Israeli settlements of Nili and Na’ale in the northeast and Modi’in Illit to the south.
Under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization, 93 percent of the town’s 15,000 dunams (1,500 hectares) were designated as Area C (comprising 60 per cent). hundred of the West Bank) and falls under the total control of Israel.
Israel restricts Palestinian construction to most of Area C and reserves the area for settlement expansion, which is illegal under international law.
“Increased use of live ammunition”
Last Friday, the main day of protests in the West Bank, Al Jazeera accompanied an ambulance driven by paramedics Ziad Abu Latifa, 50, from the Qalandiya refugee camp and Said Suleiman, 40, from the village of al-Midya. , near Niilin.
A resident of a nearby outpost had moved his cattle to graze on Palestinian land, prompting two days of protests as groups of settlers invaded the village, set fire to fields and damaged Palestinian vehicles and hundreds of Palestinians were killed. they gathered to try to repel them.
One of the wounded was Niilin Mayor Emad Khawaja, who was shot in the leg by Israeli troops.
“Eleven people were injured by live bullets on the first day and four on the second day of clashes. We have recently noticed an increase in the use of live ammunition against protesters, “Khawaja told Al Jazeera.
“The bullet will stay in the leg for life, as trying to remove it would cause more damage than what would be left there.”
As the number of injured increased, this ambulance rushed at breakneck speed along the winding narrow roads that climbed hills and valleys, making two trips from Niilin to Ramallah Hospital and back.
Abu Latifa, a five-year paramedic, a PRCS volunteer for 17 years and a father of eight, told Al Jazeera that while his job was dangerous and stressful, he felt it helped in the best way possible after witnessing firsthand. but the wounds inflicted on the Palestinians over the years and the lack of quality medical treatment that provided them.
“While participating in the protests of the first Intifada, I had broken bones and Israeli soldiers left them on the side of the road before a passing motorist took me to the hospital, where I was unconscious for two days,” he said. dir Abu Latifa.
During the first Palestinian Intifada from 1987 to 1993, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin ordered Israeli soldiers to break the arms and legs of Palestinians to prevent them from throwing stones as protests crossed the occupied West Bank and Gaza. this provoked international outrage.
“That was the motivation enough to go to study to be a paramedic to be able to give first aid to people and transport them to the hospital,” Abu Khalifa said.
“The soldier hit me in the head with the butt of the rifle”
Sadaqa said that during his stay in the camp he tries to stay calm, ignore stress and focus on treating his patients as best he can in the circumstances.
“One of the other problems we face is that soldiers refuse to allow ambulances to approach seriously injured or stop ambulances trying to evacuate the wounded to the hospital and sometimes take our patients out of the hospital. ‘ambulance,’ ‘he said.
He is not alone in this experience.
One of Abu Khalifa’s worst experiences was trying to reach a Palestinian protester in the village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah, whom they had shot with the bullet that pierced his side and came out of his neck.
The young man had been wounded from a distance as Israeli soldiers repressed protesters in the village land, but troops prevented paramedics from approaching the critically wounded young men who later died.
“It is especially difficult to travel at night to look for patients when there is no one and there are no journalists on the ground to witness what is happening,” Abu Khalifa said.
“I recently traveled to the village of Kubar, near Ramallah, to evacuate a young man who had been shot in the leg by soldiers. But while trying to put him in an ambulance, a soldier hit me in the head with the butt of his M-16 [assault rifle].
“I called the office and after an hour of negotiations with the Israeli liaison office they allowed us to evacuate the patient.”
When the sun set and Abu Khalifa and Suleiman’s turn was over, the ambulance returned to Ramallah with the toilets exhausted, satisfied that they had done everything possible to save lives.