At the height of the clashes surrounding the Temple Mount crisis last month, Border Police officers entered a hospital in East Jerusalem, disrupted medical work and behaved violently toward staff and patients, an Israeli rights group has alleged.
According to the report by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, policemen entered Al-Maqasid Hospital in East Jerusalem on July 21 following violent demonstrations in the city, to search for suspects.
The group said policemen then proceeded to harass, threaten and physically and verbally attack patients and staff members, pushing, beating and kicking them as they forcefully searched rooms and corridors.
According to PHR-Israel, the hospital has been raided in the past, but the most recent case was unprecedented in its “brutality and arrogance, deliberate violence against the hospital staff, as well as patients, injured, visitors and families, and damage to healthcare activities.”
In one case, officers allegedly entered an operating room during a procedure, breaking strict sterilization protocols. In another, a staff member claimed he and others in his team were forced to flee through the halls with a grievously injured patient during resuscitation efforts.
“We moved out, with me massaging [his heart],” the staffer said, but police “tried to prevent us from moving from the ER to the operating room, and pushed the bed [back to the ER].
“We managed to push them back and to keep going toward the operating room. When the team arrived at the elevator, they tried to board it with us, although there was no room. I had my one hand on the patient’s heart and used the other to try to prevent the officer from entering the elevator. He tried to force his way in and said he would settle accounts with me. His colleague, also a police officer, kicked me in the waist.”
A video of the incident released by the left-wing B’Tselem NGO showed police in the hospital and apparently scuffling with doctors who were trying to push the gurney into the operating room. B’Tselem that the injured man died.
PHR-Israel also alleged that policemen fired rubber-coated bullets and stun grenades at people in the hospital and on the roof. Police said that residents hurled concrete blocks from the roof and in the courtyard as the officers entered the hospital.
The group said that since the hospital is located in East Jerusalem, and is thus under the jurisdiction of the Israeli Healthy Ministry, its safety and operations should be protected by the ministry. However, it said the Health Ministry has so far failed to respond to the case, or to similar past incidents.
Regardless, PHR-Israel said, Israel is subject to the Geneva Convention and thus “is bound by the duty of avoiding any harm to the work of medical teams, even in times of conflict and war.”
Israel Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld denied B’Tselem’s account of the incident, calling its claims “inaccurate and misleading.” He did not respond to the allegations leveled by PHR-Israel, however.
The incident occurred as tensions flared in Jerusalem following the July 14 killing of two police officers by three Arab Israelis who had smuggled guns into the flashpoint Temple Mount compound.
Israel shut the compound for two days while police investigated the attack. It then reopened the site with newly installed metal detectors and cameras — security measures that set off two weeks of protests by Palestinians. The measures were eventually removed. Five Palestinians were killed in the demonstrations, while the Israeli move was cited by a Palestinian terrorist in an attack at the West Bank settlement of Halamish, in which three family members were stabbed to death.