Ha'aretz, Wednesday, March 20, 2002 Nisan 7, 5762 Israel Time: 09:59 (GMT+2)



Red Cross head in Israel: IDF has ‘trampled over Geneva Convention

            By Amos Harel

The chief representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Israel and the Palestinian areas has lambasted the Israel Defense Forces’ behavior toward medical teams in the territories.

Rene Kosirnik said on Monday he felt “betrayed” by the IDF’s actions, and that the army had “wantonly and crudely trampled” all over the Fourth Geneva Convention protocols, which expressly forbids shooting at ambulances.

Speaking with members of the French Senate’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, on a visit to the area, Kosirnik said that in his 25 years in the field, he has never experienced such a difficult time as this current point in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He mentioned the four doctors, medics and Palestinian ambulance drivers killed by IDF fire in recent weeks, and another 12 who have been wounded, five of them seriously.

“I was shocked and deeply hurt,” said Kosirnik. “I expected much more of the IDF. Nothing justifies such behavior.”

He went on to say that he was yet to receive any proof of the IDF claims that the Palestine Red Crescent Society ambulances were being used to smuggle armed activists and he said there was no “terrorist or warrior” among the medical workers who had been killed or injured.

Kosirnik talked of how he felt betrayed by the IDF, as it had promised his organization that it would allow ambulances to pass through checkpoints unscathed, but had, in some cases, opened fire on them anyway. “I don’t believe Israel deliberately fired on the ambulances [to hurt the medical teams - A.H.]. But there is a serious problem here with the IDF operations.”

When asked to talk about what had happened to the medical workers hit by IDF fire, he said they had been “murdered.” Kosirnik said he had recently visited the family of the Palestinian medical workers who had been killed and the medical teams working in the territories. “I was shocked by the fear I saw in the ambulance drivers’ eyes,” he said. “They are scared of the Israeli soldiers. It is sad. They said they also saw fear in the eyes of the IDF soldiers.”

Kosirnik recently spoke with the head of the operations directorate, Major General Dan Harel, and protested the IDF’s behavior. Harel promised to reinforce the directives. The IDF is having difficulties presenting evidence of its claims that the Palestinian ambulances are used to transport wanted activists.

Military sources say that one army observation point in the Nablus area managed to capture such an incident on video, and that Harel had viewed the tape, but the tape has since been damaged.