Since the outbreak of the al-Aqsa Intifada, Israel has imposed on Palestinians within the WestBank restrictions on movement that are unprecedented in scope and severity. As of earlyNovember 2003, the IDF had set up fifty-six staffed checkpoints in the West Bank, as well as 607physical roadblocks that prevent the passage of motor vehicles – 457 dirt piles, 94 concreteblocks, and 56 trenches.
In addition, Palestinians are forbidden to travel on most of the mainroads in the West Bank.The siege policy has made it almost impossible for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to movearound in the region. Israeli officials repeatedly emphasize that the IDF does not harm the civilianpopulation that does not participate in the hostilities. However, the policy is directed against themand affects all aspects of Palestinian life. Over the past three years, going to work, school, or tovisit relatives has become an arduous task, subject to physical blockades and staffed checkpointsat which the resident must explain the reason and destination of their travel.The sweeping restrictions on Palestinian movement within the West Bank has severely impairedtheir access to medical treatment. The emergency medical system in the West Bank has difficultyfunctioning and in many cases ambulances are unable to reach their destination.The right of every person to receive medical treatment, and the protection of the sick, wounded,and medical personnel who treat them are clearly enshrined in international humanitarian law andinternational human rights law. To ensure the realization of this right, international humanitarianlaw grants immunity to the sick, wounded, and medical teams involved in transporting them.
However, international humanitarian law states two reservations to these rules. Firstly, duringhostilities, it is permissible to delay ambulances from entering a certain area to evacuate thewounded.
Secondly, when ambulances, medical teams, sick, or wounded participate in hostileacts, they lose their immunity and may be delayed and even harmed.
The right to medical treatment is also enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic,Social and Cultural Rights, of 1966, which states:
These figures are taken from the Website of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) (www.reliefweb.int/hic-opt).
Fourth Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, of 1949,Articles 16-17; First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, of 1977, Article 10. Articles 18 and20 of the Protocol deal with the protection granted to hospitals.
First Additional Protocol, Article 15.