Three local human rights groups were up in arms this week over a new directive preventing Israeli ambulances from entering Arab-dominated neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem without a police escort.
The three groups - Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights - Israel and the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights - sent a letter to Israel's Health Ministry and the Jerusalem Police Department insisting that the directive is a violation of human rights. They also claimed that patient privacy was being violated by having police officers accompany medical crew.
The letter cited several instances where ambulances waited on the outskirts of Arab neighborhoods for long periods of time, often resulting in the worsening of the patient's condition before a police escort arrived. In other cases, police refused to provide an escort at all, citing danger to their forces.
The new directive was put in place in response to regular Arab attacks on Jewish ambulance crews. Often ambulances are called to treat the wounded resulting from a family feud, which are common in Arab communities. Agitated combatants quickly bring the Israelis into the conflict. Other times, the ambulance crews are attacked simply for being Jews.