8 March 2019, Morning Star

FBU outrage after two Palestinian children die in blaze as Israel blocks firefighter access

Britain’s Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has demanded the government take action after two Palestinian children were killed in a fire on Wednesday as Israeli authorities blocked the fire brigade from reaching them.

Three-year-old Waed Rabaji and his 18-month-old sister Malak Rabaji died after a blaze at their home in Hebron’s Old City in the occupied West Bank.

A third child suffered serious injuries and remained in intensive care in the Hebron government hospital according to Dr Walid Zalloum.

Video footage showed a fire engine racing to the scene being blocked by Israeli soldiers as it made its way down a narrow street. Locals were heard shouting to the soldiers to “open the gate quickly, for the children.”

Soldiers continued to block the path of the fire engine preventing it from reaching the burning building leaving the children trapped inside.

One of the children is understood to have died at the scene with another dying in hospital from the effects of the fire. Police spokesman Colonel Loai Arziqat confirmed in a press statement that two children had died, but did not release further details.

Israeli forces frequently stop emergency vehicles in the occupied territories. According to Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP), Israel has prevented ambulances from crossing checkpoints on 123 occasions since 2015. There were 386 attacks against Red Crescent teams across the occupied territories during the same period, with 105 ambulances damaged.

The FBU has developed close links with Palestinian counterparts offering training and raising funds for equipment. It is understood that the crew that attended Tuesday’s incident had been trained at the Ein Sara Fire Station in Scotland.

FBU Palestinian support co-ordinator Jim Malone described the circumstances in which the two children were killed as “truly shocking.”

“The FBU condemn the actions of the IDF [Israeli Defence Force], the FBU call for an immediate investigation into the actions of the IDF in Hebron and call on the UK [Foreign Office] to make a formal complaint to the Israeli government and ensure free movement for humanitarian agencies in illegally occupied Palestine,” he said.

Israel has been accused of breaching international law by blocking emergency services from attending incidents in the occupied territories.

According to the Fourth Geneva Convention: “The occupying power must ensure sufficient hygiene and public health standards, as well as the provision of food and medical care to the population under occupation.

“Personnel of the International Red Crescent Movement must be allowed to carry out their humanitarian activities.”

Source: Morning Star