Speech Given At Gazeebo Park on April 6th:
This is an eye-witness account by a Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) emergency services volunteer of an incident that occurred on April 2, 2002 when ambulance crews of the Red Crescent Society were detained by the Israeli army. PRCS president, and 8 other PRCS medics were detained and tortured by the Israeli army. They were released less than 24 hours later. In total, 22 medics have been taken by the Israeli army since March 29, 2002. To-date, 11 medics remain in custody and the harassment and targeting of emergency medical crews and ambulances continues. Check http://www.palestinercs.org for more information and updates.
(April 4, 2002)
Let me start from the beginning - 3 ambulances were out waiting at Ramallah hospital for permission from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to go to evacuate the injured from an area where heavy shooting had occurred. PRCS President Younis Al-Khatib went with the ambulance crews. Four tanks stopped them and pointed their machine guns at the ambulances and they ordered everyone to get out of the vehicles.
The soldiers confiscated all the phones and radios from the ambulances so that the crew couldn’t call to let the PRCS dispatch know what has happened to them. The soldiers start calling the medics one by one to come and put his hands up and ordered them to strip their clothes, turn around and then to go to sit in front of the tank. Then, a man called to alert the PRCS about what was occurring to the ambulance crews. PRCS contacted the ICRC and I went with 2 ambulance cars to the location where the crews were being detained. We were ordered out of the cars and told to remove our cloths and hand in our IDs and they ordered the ICRC to go. Bassam Rasam was talking to Mohamed Ali and the soldier fired a warning shot beside their heads to make them stop talking. We all thought that Bassam had been killed. The soldier ordered us to remain silent and not move.
After 30 min, they start calling us one by one and we were told to put our hands on the tanks. They took our hands and bound them together behind our backs and blindfolded us and told us to sit between the 2 tanks. It began to rain heavily and we were quickly soaked. Because we were not wearing many clothes, we start shaking and we couldn’t feel our hands because the plastic strap binding our hands was very tight. We started screaming and they began hitting us on our heads. We stayed 4 hours under the rain. They then took us in 3 tanks to the camp and there, the soldiers were hitting us and screaming at us. I asked “Why you are doing this to us? We did not do anything. Please kill us and put us out of our misery.”
We stayed there in the camp more 3 hours, all that time exposed to the rain and the cold with our eyes covered and our hands bound. Then they took all of the medics except me. I became very afraid because I was alone so I started crying. After 1 hour, the solider came. I asked him why they took all my friends and left me here. I told him again I had not done anything and to please help me. After 15 min, they talked to me and then released me. I was very happy that I was not going to be killed. It was very hard for all and I still feel sad and I can’t sleep.
I am always thinking about what happened to us.