Red Cross: Palestinian Red Crescent Was Impartial After Hebron Terror Attack

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Palestinian Red Crescent workers clean their stretcher after carrying wounded in Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip, on July 31, 2014.Credit: AFP

The Palestine Red Crescent Society acted with impartiality and professionalism in the case of the terror attack on a family driving in the West Bank that left two dead, its parent organization said Tuesday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement that the Palestine Red Crescent Society, or PRCS, “operates with professionalism and in full respect of the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (RCRC), including impartiality.”

Israel filed a complaint with the ICRC charging that a Red Crescent ambulance arrived at the scene of a November 13 shooting attack near the West Bank settlement of Otniel on a vehicle carrying seven members of one family who were traveling to the Shabbat pre-wedding celebrations of one of the family’s daughters but did not stop to help once it ascertained that the occupants of the car were Israelis and not Palestinians. Rabbi Yaakov Litman and his 18-year-old son Netanel were killed at the scene of the attack.

The attack on the Litman family, “as well as others targeting or affecting civilians over the past six weeks, is tragic and unacceptable. Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians, by whoever, can never be justified,” the ICRC said in its statement.

“Further to this incident, a lot of attention, however, has focused on the alleged failure by the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS) to provide due care to the victims. Impartiality is the cornerstone of any true humanitarian action, and the ICRC takes very seriously any reports to the contrary.”

The statement also said: “What we call on for now is for all to act responsibly and better support both national societies. That includes refraining from making serious accusations against either National Society that do not take into account the facts on the ground.”

The Palestine Red Crescent Society has responded to 8,900 emergency calls since the beginning of October, according to the ICRC.

In a recording of the call made to emergency services by Litman’s 16-year-old son broadcast on Israeli television in the hours after the attack, the teen says, “There are two wounded here, but we have the Red Crescent with us.” Then he says, “The Red Crescent ambulance drove away from us, I don’t know why.”

In a statement issued after the broadcast by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, the organization denied allegations that its paramedics did not stop to assist the victims.

“A PRCS’ team arrived at the scene and started providing First Aid to the wounded. A few minutes later, two Israeli ambulances, one belonging to the Israeli army and another from Magen David Adom, arrived at the scene,” the statement said. “The ambulances’ teams headed towards the wounded persons, brandishing their weapons. Given that Israeli paramedics had arrived and were providing medical care to casualties, PRCS’ team left the scene which they felt had become unsafe.”

The driver of the Israeli ambulance that arrived at the scene told Israel’s Channel 10 that Red Crescent paramedics did not alight from their vehicle before driving away.

Israel Police raided an eastern Jerusalem office of PRCS on Tuesday night, according to reports.