Jerusalem, March 10, 2002 — Since November 2000, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has launched two medical and psychological care programs in the Palestinian autonomous territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The programs are intended to benefit people living in areas most exposed to violence, including those close to the confrontation spots, Israeli army installations and Israeli settlements.
Since the beginning of March 2002, MSF teams have been witnessing an unprecedented escalation of the violence on both sides in the Middle East. This has resulted in the highest death toll in 14 years.
The Israeli army attacks in the Palestinian Occupied Autonomous Territories have increased in intensity each day. Within the first week of this month about 100 Palestinians, including civilians and children, have been killed during the Israeli air strikes and tank invasions in refugee camps around Gaza (where MSF medical teams are working), Jenin, Nablus, Ramallah, Tulkarem and Bethlehem. Tanks and heavy machinegun fire also shelled Hebron city, where MSF medical teams reside and work.
Emergency medical services and health care providers have also come under attack, preventing health care from reaching injured people.
The most recent victims are: the Head of Emergency Services in Jenin, a UN nurse in Tulkarem, an ambulance driver, a first aid provider, and a medical worker in Gaza. Several ambulances had been crushed, flattened, and shot at during the attacks. In the last seventeen days, the Israeli army has killed 15 medical personnel and injured many others.
The Al Mezzan hospital in Hebron has been shelled and the pathology department and the patients' restaurant have been damaged.
The Israeli army's unprecedented attacks on medical services in the Palestinian territories are very alarming and are evidence of a violation of international laws.
International humanitarian law expressly protects medical services and the injured in times of conflict. The conflicting parties are obliged to provide health care and to facilitate safe access for medical personnel.
Therefore, MSF strongly condemns these attacks and calls on the Israeli authorities to take immediate measures to protect medical personnel and their facilities, and to allow them access to the injured and to the most needy.