- BAGHDAD(IPS/GIN) -- The U.S.
military has been preventing delivery of medical care in several instances,
medical staff say.
- Iraqi doctors at many hospitals have reported raids by
coalition forces. Some of the more recent raids have been in Amiriyat al-Fallujah,
about 10km to the east of Fallujah, the town U.S. forces now hold after
a bloody assault. Amiriyat al-Fallujah has been the source of several reported
resistance attacks on U.S. forces.
- The main hospital in Amiriyat al-Fallujah was raided
twice recently by U.S. soldiers and members of the Iraqi National Guard,
doctors say. "The first time was November 29 at 5:40 a.m., and the
second time was the following day," said a doctor at the hospital
who did not want to give his real name for fear of U.S. reprisals.
- In the first raid, about 150 U.S. soldiers and at least
40 members of the Iraqi National Guard stormed the small hospital, he said.
- "They were yelling loudly at everyone, both doctors
and patients alike," the young doctor said. "They divided into
groups and were all over the hospital. They broke the gates outside, they
broke the doors of the garage, and they raided our supply room where our
food and supplies are. They broke all the interior doors of the hospital,
as well as every exterior door."
- He was then interrogated about resistance fighters, he
said. "The Americans threatened to do here what they did in Fallujah
if I didn't cooperate with them," he said.
- Another doctor, speaking on condition of anonymity, said
that all of the doors of the clinics inside the hospital were kicked in.
All of the doctors, along with the security guard, were handcuffed and
interrogated for several hours, he said.
- The two doctors pointed to an ambulance with a shattered
back window. "When the Americans raided our hospital again last Tuesday
at 7 p.m., they smashed one of our ambulances," the first doctor said.
- His colleague pointed to other bullet-riddled ambulances.
"The Americans have snipers all along the road between here and Fallujah,"
he said. "They are shooting our ambulances if they try to go to Fallujah."
- In nearby Saqlawiyah, Dr. Abdulla Aziz told IPS that
occupation forces had blocked any medical supplies from entering or leaving
the city. "They won't let any of our ambulances go to help Fallujah,"
he said. "We are out of supplies and they won't let anyone bring us
- The pattern of military interference in medical work
has apparently persisted for many months. During the April siege of Fallujah,
doctors there reported similar difficulties.
- "The Marines have said they didn't close the hospital,
but essentially they did," said Dr. Abdul Jabbar, orthopedic surgeon
at Fallujah General Hospital. "They closed the bridge which connects
us to the city, and closed our road. The area in front of our hospital
was full of their soldiers and vehicles."
- This prevented medical care reaching countless patients
in desperate need, he said. "Who knows how many of them died that
we could have saved?"
- He, too, said the military had fired on civilian ambulances.
They had also fired at the clinic he had been working in since April, he
said. "Some days, we couldn't leave or even go near the door because
of the snipers. They were shooting at the front door of the clinic."
- Dr. Jabbar said U.S. snipers shot and killed one of the
ambulance drivers of the clinic where he worked during the fighting.
- "We were tied up and beaten despite being unarmed
and having only our medical instruments," Asma Khamis al-Muhannadi,
a doctor who was present during the U.S. and Iraqi National Guard raid
on Fallujah General Hospital, told reporters later.
- She said troops dragged patients from their beds and
pushed them against the wall. "I was with a woman in labor, the umbilical
cord had not yet been cut," she said. "At that time, a U.S. soldier
shouted at one of the (Iraqi) national guards to arrest me and tie my hands
while I was helping the mother to deliver."
- Other doctors spoke of their experience of the raid.
"The Americans shot out the lights in the front of our hospital, they
prevented doctors from reaching the emergency unit at the hospital, and
we quickly began to run out of supplies and much-needed medication,"
said Dr. Ahmed, who gave only a first name. U.S. troops prevented doctors
from entering the hospital on several occasions, he said.
- Targeting hospitals or ambulances is in direct contravention
of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which strictly forbids attacks on emergency
vehicles and the impeding of medical operations during war.
- At several places, doctors said U.S. troops had demanded
information from medical staff about resistance fighters. "They are
always coming here and asking us if we have injured fighters," a doctor
at a hospital said.
- A U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad told IPS that routine
searches of hospitals are carried out to look for "insurgents."
He said it has never been the policy of coalition forces to impede medical
services in Iraq.