Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Among bullets and teargas canisters, medics risk their lives to save others

By Marc Henry - September 10, 2018
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [Gaza] [Palestinian Medical Relief Society (PMRS)]

There used to be a certain respect surrounding the medics at the battlefields. During the Second World War medical personnel were more or less allowed to treat the injured in a conflict zone without fearing enemy fire. But those were the days. Now a day, no one is safe especially not in Gaza. 

There is a reason why humanitarian workers are wearing recognisable clothes with a large sign of their organisation. They are not to be targeted by any parts of a conflict, as Head of the World Health Organization [WHO] Gaza Sub-office Dr Mahmoud Daher said.
“Unfortunately, the growing phenomenon of attacks on this personnel does not allow a safe place for these people to work. It is important to highlight the need for protection,” Dr Daher told Palestine Monitor.  
And there certainly is a need for protection for the many volunteers that put their own lives at risk saving Palestinians being shot by Israeli soldiers at the protests around Gaza.
According to the WHO, three health care personnel was killed, and 379 was injured in 211 incidents in the Gaza Strip between January and August 2018. An additional 57 ambulances and five health care transports, as well as one health NGO facility and one ambulance station were attacked by the Israeli military.
“This is only the [latest incidents] in Gaza, but during the recent years, there have been several attacks against health personnel and hospitals and care centres. This has been frequently recorded,” Dr Daher said.
Under attack
While the Gaza Strip has turned into a dangerous area for the many humanitarian workers, it is not keeping 29-year-old Ahmad Alraee and 27-year-old Reda Al-Masri out of the danger zone. The two nurses are not ready to give in to the fear of being killed.
Recently Ahmad Alraee found himself in the middle of an attack from Israeli soldiers. While trying to help an injured person on the ground, Israeli soldiers covered Alraee and his colleagues in teargas.
“They attacked us directly, and the teargas affected our work in so many ways. We are there to save our people who are there to show the world, that we have the right to our land,” Alraee told Palestine Monitor.
“There is no one to help us.  For the Israeli soldiers, it does not make a difference. Their bullets kill everyone. We feel like we are targeted by the Israeli military,” Al-Masri added.
And while Head of WHOs Gaza-sub office Dr Maher Mahmoud Daher does not want to blame any authority in the world for targeting medical personnel purposely, he believes it should be stopped and prevented.
“I hope that all parts of this conflict and the international environment will do more to protect the humanitarian workers and end these attacks and killings,” Dr Daher said and described the attacks as cynical acts of violence.
“These people are there to protect human lives, so killing the saviours is a serious breach of international conventions.”
Caring for the humanity
Ahmad Alraee, who lives in Gaza City, finished his education as a nurse and became a first aid provider during the second intifada. Every Friday he is to be found at the protest in Gaza doing his best to help those Palestinians, who have been injured by Israeli soldiers. However, Alraee it does not matter if the patient is Palestinian or Jewish.
“I respect the human as a human being. That is my philosophy. Here in the Gaza Strip, as a part of the Palestinian medical society, the treatment is for all. I respect this message, and I work for all people. I want the best for all,” he said.
And Reda Al-Masri, who has been a volunteer for five years, is supporting Alraee’s message. She said being a volunteer nurse in the field makes her feel like she has a purpose in this life.
“It is about increasing the understanding of the human being. It doesn’t matter what race or age,” Al-Masri told Palestine Monitor.
And while neither of the two nurses will let the fear of being killed keep them away from the protests, Al-Masri does fear that the latest incidents can keep others for volunteering.
“We are not afraid of the soldiers. We are not afraid of dying, but when they kill someone, maybe it will keep other volunteers from going. That is the biggest fear. That we will not be enough to help.”
While Dr Daher of WHO acknowledges the risks for the humanitarian workers, he does not believe that the attacks will prevent more people from volunteering.
“I think the people who sacrifice their lives for the sake of humanity have a certain call. These people are working to save lives, and we are calling for their protection in order to make it safer,” Dr Daher said.

One thing is for sure, neither Alraee nor Al-Masri are giving up on their humanitarian work.
“I feel like there is always someone who needs help, so I cannot stop. I cannot stay at home. I feel that someone is calling for me and for my help. This is just one step, but there is no end of this tragedy,” Al-Masri said. 

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