Checkpoints and Palestinian Ambulances
One of the unfortunate results of the violence during the "al-Aksa intifada" has been the allegations of Israeli abuse against Palestinian Red Crescent ambulances. Various human rights groups, and politicians throughout the Arab world, have accused Israel of gratuitously delaying ambulances attempting to cross from the West Bank into Israel proper, resulting in inconveniences, medical complications, and even death to the sick passengers on board. These accounts tend to portray the delays as wanton acts of cruelty on the part of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians in need of medical attention.
These allegations are correct in one regard: ambulances are indeed stopped and searched at Israeli checkpoints. They fail, however, to put the facts into a broader context. The reason that ambulances have been held and searched at checkpoints is due to the very real threat that they pose to Israel and its citizens. Ambulances have frequently been used as a means to transport terrorist bombs, and many of the militants who have triggered suicide bombings in Israel gained access by driving or riding in Red Crescent ambulances. For example:
The accusations leveled against Israel by its critics have frequently been based on statements of international law, such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is true that the Geneva Convention does place particular emphasis on the immunity and neutrality of ambulances and emergency medical personnel. But the conclusion that Israel must ignore a clear and present danger to its citizens, or else violate international law, is a distortion. It is in fact the Palestinian terrorists, who are using ambulances to smuggle explosives into Israel, that are compromising the Red Crescents immunity and neutrality.