By Corinne Heller Reuters
The Jordan Times Wednesday, November 22, 2006
RAMAT GAN - "He has a pulse!" the Palestinian medic shouted above the sound
of sirens and explosions as he and three colleagues tended to the motionless
figure on the floor.
The exercise, in an Israeli hospital, was a dress rehearsal for more than a
dozen medics and doctors from the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip, who
often treat casualties of Israeli military operations against fighters.
The emergency medicine course is sponsored by the Israeli Physicians for
Human Rights, a private group dedicated to professional cooperation with
Palestinian doctors. Funding comes mainly from international donors.
"It is excellent that people from the Palestinian territories come to
participate in an Israeli course," said Marwan Baqer, who heads a team of
120 ambulance workers back in Gaza. "We do not care who is conducting the
course." After several minutes of simulating blocked airways, fluid in lungs
and vomiting, an Israeli instructor, speaking in Hebrew, told the
Palestinian medics that the dummy they were treating was going to live.
"The first 30 minutes are critical - you can determine if a person lives or
dies," said Maskit Bendel, director of the Physicians for Human Rights'
"Occupied Territories Project".
During the training, instructors also simulate bombing and attack scenarios
with smoke machines and sound effects to teach participants how to treat
wounded under fire.
Such violence is routine for many of the medics, especially in Gaza, which
Israel has bombarded with air strikes in recent months to battle fighters
who have increased their rocket attacks against the Jewish state.
Some 200 Palestinian medical workers have taken part in the Israeli training
courses, begun soon after a Palestinian uprising erupted in 2000. The
sessions are conducted in Hebrew, Arabic and English.
The latest two-day course, the second to involve simulated casualties and
sound effects, took place this week at the Chaim Sheba Medical Centre near
Israel has killed more than 370 Palestinians in Gaza, about half of them
civilians, since it began a major offensive against fighters in June
following the abduction of an Israeli soldier, Gaza hospital officials and
Three Israeli soldiers have been killed and a woman in an Israeli border
town died in a rocket strike during that period.
With tensions high, Israeli roadblocks and frequent closures of border
crossings, especially to Gaza, have made it difficult for Palestinians to
attend the training sessions.
"We facilitate everything, their travel papers. The request procedure is
very difficult and unpredictable and dependent on the civil administration,"
Bendel said, referring to an Israeli military-run authority that issues
"The medics from the West Bank were given permission [to attend the current
course] just three days ago," she said.
Raphael Walden, a member of the Physicians for Human Rights' board of
directors and head of surgery at the Sheba centre, said the group has a
strong commitment "to help our Palestinian neighbours in these difficult
"We have a common enemy - disease," he said.
Baqer said he would pass on what he learned in the Israeli course to his
ambulance crews in Gaza.
"I will tell them that we learned something good here," he said. "There is
no difference when it comes to the health of an Arab or a Jew. All that
matters is that it is a person."
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