The death of yet another Palestinian health worker shows that, despite frequent warnings from Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) and our supporters, impunity leads to repeated attacks.
On 3 May 2019, 36-year-old Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) paramedic Mohammed al-Jedeili was fatally shot at the ongoing Great March of Return demonstrations in Gaza. He was struck in the face by a rubber-coated steel bullet, which fractured his skull, while helping an injured protester into an ambulance. Mohammed was initially treated at hospitals in Gaza then transferred out of Gaza to the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron in the West Bank when his condition worsened. He died of his wounds on 10 June.
Mohammed was the fifth Palestinian health worker to be killed by Israeli forces since 30 March last year.
Deeply concerned by recurrent attacks on Palestinian health workers carried out by Israeli forces with impunity, in May MAP again appealed to the UK to take action, particularly to help protect those working to save lives in the context of the ongoing Great March of Return protests. Nearly 600 supporters emailed the UK’s representatives to the UN Security Council in New York, asking them to raise this issue at an Open Debate on the Protection of Civilians in Conflict on 24 May.
In the UK’s remarks at the debate, Ambassador Jonathan Allen listed a number of countries of concern where civilians are bearing the brunt of conflict, and emphasised the importance of accountability for potential violations of international humanitarian law:
When we receive reports of attacks on civilians, on schools, on hospitals and medical facilities, we need collectively and individually to be ready to say what we see and to say who is behind it. It can be uncomfortable to do so. It can cut across political priorities or international friendships. But for the sake of all, we must do so.
Absent from the Ambassador’s remarks was any mention of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), despite the finding of an independent UN Commission of Inquiry that Israeli forces have committed violations of international human rights and humanitarian law [that] may constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity in their response to the Gaza protests. In the context of Israel’s use of force against the protests, overall 277 people were killed by Israeli forces and 6,846 people received gunshot wounds in one year (30 March 2018 � 31 March 2019).
During that same period, four Palestinian health workers were killed by Israeli forces while carrying out their humanitarian duties: three at the protests in Gaza and one in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the West Bank. As of 31 May, more than 750 health workers have also been injured. Despite continuing warning that impunity fuels recurrence � underlined further still by the subsequent killing of paramedic Mohammed al-Jedeili � nobody has yet been held accountable. Little wonder that the Commission of Inquiry found the oPt to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a health worker.
The UK government claims to fully to support an independent and transparent investigation into the deadly events in Gaza and has welcomed the opening by Israel’s Military Advocate General of five criminal investigations into 11 Palestinian fatalities at the protests.
Decades of impunity, however, suggest that hopes for accountability are very slim. The aforementioned Commission of Inquiry stated that the Government of Israel has consistently failed to meaningfully investigate and prosecute commanders and soldiers for crimes and violations committed against Palestinians or to provide reparation to victims in accordance with international norms. Similar findings have been made by previous Commissions of Inquiry, UN special procedures and the most reputable international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations.
May’s UN Security Council debate was, sadly, another opportunity missed by the UK to pursue genuine accountability. Palestinian health workers and civilians are at constant high risk in this climate of impunity.
With Palestinian health workers continuing to be injured and killed by Israeli forces, it is vital that the UK outlines how it will help protect them, and to redouble efforts to ensure that there are prompt, effective, independent and thorough investigations into these attacks and that the perpetrators are held accountable.
Source: Medical Aid for Palestinians