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Israel raided Palestinian hospital in 'ruthless display of force': Amnesty

Soldiers and police officers had raided the Makassad hospital as medical staff tended to injured protesters
Israeli police face a crowd of Palestinians in Jerusalem (Reuters)

Israel's security forces blocked doctors from providing emergency medical care to critically injured protesters when it raided a Palestinian hospital in east Jerusalem, said Amnesty International on Tuesday. 

The rights groups described the raids on the Makassad hospital as a "ruthless display of force" after medical staff and patients were intimidated by the Israeli security forces during its raids last week. 

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The hospital was raided twice in one week by the Israelis as tensions escalated in Jerusalem and the West Bank following Israel's decision to place metal detectors at multiple entrances of the al-Aqsa mosque. 

Staff and patients at the Makassad hospital told Amnesty how hundreds of armed Israeli army and police officers had raided the medical facility as it attempted to help injured Palestinian protesters. 

"There can be no justification for preventing medical workers from caring for a critically wounded patient," said Magdalena Mughrabi, the deputy MENA director at Amnesty. 

"The conduct of Israeli forces who carried out violent raids on al-Makassed hospital harassing and intimidating staff and patients is utterly deplorable."

Eyewitnesses at the Palestinian hospital described scenes of "absolute mayhem" as Israeli soldiers and police stormed the premises, apparently in pursuit of critically injured patients. 

According to medical staff who were present at the hospital, more than 200 heavily armed soldiers had surrounded the hospital last Friday.

The army had also fired tear gas to disperse Palestinians who had come to donate blood after protesters were injured during clashes with the police. 

Rafiq Husseini, the head of Makassed hospital, told Amnesty that between 20 and 30 heavily armed border guard soldiers and police raided the hospital late on the evening of 17 July.

“They harassed my staff and other patients and were acting in an aggressive manner... They acted without any legal basis, entering the hospital with machine guns and stun grenades and terrorising the staff and other patients," he said.

After protests and subsequent clashes broke out, the hospital received a constant stream of patients suffering from tear gas inhalation, beatings and injuries from rubber bullets. 

Bassam Abu Libdeh, the medical director of Makassed, described how soldiers had chased a 19-year-old man who was bleeding severely through the hospital like “hungry dogs after their prey".

"They chased the injured youth, who'd been brought into the operating room when a few of us doctors intervened to stop them," said Libdeh. "He was bleeding to death and in critical shape, he wasn't going anywhere."

The hospital raids took place against a backdrop of demonstrations and violence that has swept across the occupied Palestinian territories after Israeli authorities imposed a series of restrictions on worshippers' access to al-Aqsa mosque and blocked several main roads leading to Jerusalem's Old City.

Protests continue to persist as hundreds gather outside the entrances of Al-Aqsa in opposition to Israeli security measures imposed on Islam's third holiest site. 

Last week, videos posted on social media showed Palestinians hiding the body of Mohammed Abu Ghanam after he died in the Al-Makassad hospital, due to fears that the Israeli authorities would seize the body. 

Bodies of dead Palestinians are often held by the Israeli authorities for long periods, and the crowd appears to have feared that this would be repeated in Ghanam's case.

According to the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, more than 1,000 Palestinians have been injured, including 29 wounded with live ammunition, 374 with rubber bullets, 471 sustained injuries as a result of tear gas and 216 people suffered bruises, burns or broken bones as a result of beatings. 

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