Gaza, Asharq Al-Awsat—To date, most of those killed in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza have been civilians, struck by the firepower of one of the world’s most powerful militaries in a conflict as one-sided as it is destructive. Day-in, day-out, Gaza’s paramedics have sought to offer treatment to those injured in the violence, exposed to both physical danger and the remorseless psychological toll taken by exposure to the effects of the terrible destructive power of modern weapons.
Among the obstacles they have been forced to battle have been shortages of supplies, fuel, and now, according to a number of paramedics who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this week, the deliberate targeting of emergency workers by the Israeli military.
Paramedics told Asharq Al-Awsat that they were “working in hell” because the Israeli army was “deliberately targeting ambulance crews and paramedics” who rushed to bombed areas to recover bodies and tend to the injured.
One paramedic, Ahmad Madhoun, 31, said that he and his colleagues had been targeted directly on three occasions by the Israeli military in the area east of Shejaia, where they were sent by the emergency control center to rescue the injured and take them to a hospital.
He also accused Israeli forces of preventing them from entering many areas which have come under attack.
Madhoun said that on one occasion gunfire prevented his ambulance crew from reaching seven injured people for several hours, before finally being able to get to them after coordinating with the Red Cross. They found that only two were still alive, while the others had bled to death. One of the survivors died in hospital a couple of days later.
Madhoun, who was speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat during a three-hour break, said: “The war does not exclude anyone. We work in very difficult conditions and we have not seen our families since the start of hostilities, and although [the Israeli military] knows who we are, they still target us deliberately.”
Madhoun said the destruction of the infrastructure made it difficult for ambulances to reach some areas, but that the ambulance crews’ knowledge of the area helped find alternative routes to locate the injured and get them to hospitals.
According to Palestinian Health Ministry figures, one paramedic, Fouad Jaber, was killed during the ongoing fighting, while 16 had been injured in Israeli air raids. The hostilities also killed pharmacist Anas Abu Al-Kas and two Ministry staff, Ata Habib and Mohammad Al-Areer.
The Ministry also accused Israeli forces of deliberately striking five hospitals on the Gaza Strip, and destroying 11 ambulances.
Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudrah told Asharq Al-Awsat that emergency teams were working very hard to serve the people and save the injured, despite being directly targeted by the Israelis.
He said the ambulance units also suffered a severe shortage of fuel which made matters even worse. He called on international parties to protect Gaza’s healthcare infrastructure, and urged Israel to stop the direct targeting of ambulance crews.