Israeli army medics spared no effort or expense in order to save the life of one of two Palestinians who stabbed a Border Police officer at Tapuah Junction in the West Bank on Friday, a medical officer who was on the scene said Sunday.
While one of the attackers had already died by the time his team arrived, one of Lt. Moshe Cohen’s paramedics used an expensive, cutting-edge plasma treatment to keep the second man alive when he was on his “last breaths,” Cohen said.
Cohen, 23, from Beersheba in southern Israel, completed his medical degree at Ben Gurion University in emergency medicine before enlisting in the IDF. He now serves as a regional medical officer in the Samaria Brigade, which is responsible for the city of Nablus and the surrounding area.
On Friday morning, Cohen’s team received a call that one soldier had been injured and two Palestinians had been killed during a stabbing incident approximately five kilometers (three miles) away from their base near Tapuah Junction. However, that report proved to be wrong twice over, Cohen told The Times of Israel.
For one, though one of the attackers did succeed in stabbing a Border Police officer, the officer was uninjured, as the knife did not penetrate his protective ceramic vest. In addition, though one of the attackers was indeed shot dead on the scene by a female officer, the second was still alive.
“When we arrived we split into two teams: My team went to the soldier, and the second team went about two meters (6 feet) away to where the terrorists were. I saw that the soldier had not actually been injured, that the knife had hit the ceramic vest. I told him, ‘We’ll come back, but for now you are not an emergency,'” Cohen said.
“I joined the team that was treating the terrorists. I checked the first terrorist’s pulse and saw that he didn’t have one, that he was definitely dead. The second terrorist was face-down on the ground. The paramedic checked him, saw that he was still breathing, really his last breaths,” Cohen related.
Multiple Israeli teams on the scene began treating the Palestinian man, including both IDF medical personnel and paramedics from the Magen David Adom emergency rescue service, who arrived shortly after Cohen.
The Palestinian assailant was suffering from multiple system failure and had already lost a lot of blood by that time.
“We gave him plasma, a blood substitute that is very, very expensive. We bring it in specially from Germany; it is truly very costly,” he said.
“This treatment is something that only the army has. Magen David Adom doesn’t even have it because it’s so expensive,” Cohen added, although he wasn’t able to say exactly how much it cost.
This use of plasma outside of a hospital, in an emergency or battlefield setting, was first attempted in Israel in 2013 on another Palestinian, who had been injured in a car accident. The plasma comes from donors with AB blood type, the universal donor for plasma, as opposed to standard blood donations, when type O is universally accepted. The plasma is freeze-dried and can be stored for over a year at room temperature without degrading. The medic, a staff sergeant in his early 20s, apparently did not even realize that his treatment was revolutionary at the time.
At Tapuah Junction, the use of that technique saved the Palestinian attacker’s life, Cohen said. “After he got the treatment, he opened his eyes, he had blood pressure again, his pulse came back and he started breathing better,” he said.
Since his condition had not yet stabilized, Cohen’s team brought him to the closest possible hospital, in Nablus, for further treatment. Though he crashed on the way to the hospital, the team managed to again bring him back and, as of Sunday evening, he was alive but in serious condition.
‘What he did before and what he will do afterwards, that’s not up to me’
Despite the fact that just minutes before, the man had attempted to stab an Israeli, Cohen said the thought of giving less than the best available care to the critically injured attacker never entered his mind.
“It’s not a consideration; it’s not relevant at all,” he said.
Whenever he arrives at a scene, Cohen added, he only sees medical problems that need to be solved — not a terrorist or a civilian or an IDF soldier. “My job is to treat,” he explained.
“What he did before and what he will do afterwards, that’s not up to me,” he added.
“This wasn’t the first time, and I assume it won’t be the last time that we treat terrorists. It’s not at all out of the ordinary,” Cohen said.
Not only does the IDF regularly treat belligerents, he went on, but army medical teams are consistently called upon to treat Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
“During the daily routine, we are constantly treating Palestinians,” Cohen said. “I know that this was ‘sexy’ because it was a terror attack and all that, but it happens all the time.”