International Committee of the Red Cross 6 November 2006
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) deplores the death on 3 November of two Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) paramedics in the Gaza Strip and is deeply shocked and saddened by this event.
The two died from injuries received while performing their life-saving humanitarian work during a military operation of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).
The ICRC is appalled by this failure to protect personnel engaged in emergency medical duties. The individuals concerned and their means of transport were clearly marked with a distinctive emblem conferring the protection of the Geneva Conventions.
Shortly after 9 p.m. on 3 November, the PRCS emergency medical services responded to reports that people had been wounded during military operations in Beit Lahiya, south-west of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip. A number of ambulances, including three from the PRCS, reached the area. Both paramedics were wearing the clearly marked fluorescent jackets of the PRCS and using large flashlights when they left the ambulance to perform their humanitarian duties. The ambulance’s siren was on and its flashing lights were visible at a great distance. The paramedics were in the process of evacuating a dead body from the scene when IDF munitions suddenly hit the area. One died on the spot; the other was seriously wounded and died of his injuries a few hours later.
“This incident underscores the urgent need to improve the protection of medical teams operating in areas of conflict through compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law,” said Dominik Stillhart, ICRC head of delegation in Israel and the occupied territories. “These rules oblige parties to a conflict to respect and protect personnel engaged in medical duties and to distinguish between military objectives, on one hand, and civilians and civilian objects, on the other.” The PRCS is a member of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Under international humanitarian law, its medical personnel and means of transport must be protected and respected in all circumstances.