Palestinian medics on the front line fighting to save lives

Bassem Sadaqa points at a bullet hole lodged in the driver’s door of the ambulance he drives, tangible evidence of what he says is a regular occurrence of Palestinian medics being “regularly targeted” by Israeli forces.

The father of five lives in Niilin and has been a paramedic with the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) for 20 years.

“At first I thought the ambulance had been hit by stones until I saw the hole. The shooting wasn’t an accident, the Israeli soldiers were aiming at the ambulance as I was standing right near it. And it also wasn’t the first time ambulances I have driven have been targeted.”

Sadaqa had been on the front lines with his fellow Palestinian medics on the day this happened, fighting to save lives and rushing wounded protesters to hospitals a half-hour’s drive away.

Palestinian villagers protesting against the illegal establishment of yet another Israeli outpost on their village land had been confronted by Israeli settlers, resulting in violence and many injuries.

Niilin is an agricultural village of more than 6,000 people who mostly make their living from farming that lies 17km (10 miles) west of the main occupied West Bank city of Ramallah.

The people there are fighting to keep what land the village has left from being expropriated by ever-encroaching illegal Israeli settlements and outposts – they are now surrounded by the illegal Israeli settlements of Nili and Na’ale in the northeast and Modi’in Illit to the south.

Under the 1993 Oslo Accords between the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization, 93 percent of the village’s 15,000 dunams (1,500 hectares) was designated as Area C – comprising 60 percent of the West Bank – and falls under full Israeli control.

Israel restricts Palestinian construction in most of Area C and reserves the area for the expansion of settlements, illegal under international law.

‘Increase in the use of live ammunition’

On a recent Friday, the main day of protests in the West Bank, Al Jazeera accompanied an ambulance driven by paramedics Ziad Abu Latifa, 50, from Qalandiya refugee camp and Said Suleiman, 40, from the village of al-Midya near Niilin.

A settler from a nearby outpost had moved his cattle to graze on Palestinian land, leading to two days of protests as groups of settlers invaded the village, set fire to fields, and damaged Palestinian vehicles and hundreds of Palestinians gathered to try to repel them.

One of those wounded was Niilin Mayor Emad Khawaja, who was shot in the leg by Israeli troops.

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