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Ambulance stopped at checkpoint in Hebron

October 30th, 2007

Today in the old city of Hebron, an ambulance carrying a Palestinian woman to her home was delayed by Israeli soldiers for two hours at the entrance to the Israeli occupied area of Beit Romano.

Traveling from Jerusalem following intensive surgery, the woman, Ms. Abuhaikal from Tel Rumeida, was forced to wait in the ambulance for a further two hours – unable to walk with 39 stitches in her abdomen – as Israeli soldiers denied the ambulance entry to the occupied area. The ambulance was forced to drive through the occupied zone to reach her residence, as Tel Rumeida is blocked to Palestinian cars with concrete road blocks – the only entries being for Israeli settlers through Israeli occupied zones.

The Israeli soldiers refused to allow the ambulance entry to the occupied zone, despite the fact that the transit had been arranged with Israeli authorities many hours before. After waiting an initial hour, the ambulance turned around, to take Ms. Abuhaikal back to hospital, fearing for her health.

A collaboration of Israeli activists, International Red Cross and international Human Rights Observers worked together to call the ambulance back, convinced they could arrange for it to pass through. After being forced to wait a further 45 minutes, the ambulance was finally allowed to pass through the occupied zone, bringing Ms. Abuhaikal to her home.

Throughout this travesty, there were other accidents in the area of Hebron where ambulances were needed, but none of the ten Hebron ambulances were available to attend.

Red Crescent ambulance drivers noted that this was an extremely common occurrence, and that they are often forced to wait for 90 minutes to get through checkpoints, both fixed and those known as “flying checkpoints” – where Israeli soldiers can randomly decide to stop vehicles for “security reasons”. One ambulance driver explained that whilst driving an ambulance in the Hebron area he was once detained for 3 hours for a security check, actions that clearly endanger Palestinian lives. As the driver commented, “Palestinian lives are cheap”.