Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) has expressed its deep concern following the decision by Israel’s Police Investigation Affairs Unit to close 5 out of 7 reported cases of attacks against paramedical teams serving residents of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
During the closing months of 2015, the safety of Palestinian paramedical personnel drew the attention of PHR after a number of incidents were reported in which such teams were attacked. To protect them and their patients from obstruction and attack, on December 28, 2015 PHR filed 7 complaints with the Police Investigation Affairs Unit in which it explicitly documented injuries sustained by Palestinian paramedical personnel and residents in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. At the same time, PHR filed an additional 11 complaints with other relevant departments. (To date, no final answers regarding these latter 11 complaints have yet been received by PHR.)
Following its submission of 7 complaints to the Police Investigation Unit, PHR was asked for more details connected to these incidents. PHR provided the requested material and offered to provide any other support required for the investigation. On April 16, the Police Investigation Affairs Unit responded regarding 5 of the 7 cases, and stated that “circumstances do not justify opening a criminal investigation.” Furthermore the police claimed that PHR had not sufficiently cooperated in the investigation – a patently false claim.
Bearing in mind the gravity of the complaints, the decision by the Police Investigation Affairs Unit not to further the investigation of these 5 cases ostensibly minimizes the significance of attacks on Palestinian paramedical personnel and the harassment of patients. While the right to health is enshrined in international law, which Israel, as an occupying power, must live up to, the state’s systematic disregard for the security of Palestinian health workers has direct consequences on their lives, and a resultant impact on the health of residents in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. These general concerns were raised by a recent World Health Organization (WHO) resolution which drew attention to physical and procedural barriers to health in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, delay of ambulance services there, and impediments to the safety of medical personnel. The WHO also recently issued its report by the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition, to which the PHR contributed.