MDA: Egypt's ban on our ambulances jeopardized Sinai bus crash rescue

"Victims weren't treated properly as MDA teams waited for permission to cross border."

By JUDY SIEGEL, HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
August 24, 2006 01:16
2 minute read.

 
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The Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that it had made no request for Egypt to allow Israeli ambulances into Sinai, despite pleas from Magen David Adom (MDA) that they enter in order to treat the injured. MDA Director-General Eli Bin described his "frustration" at the emergency services not having been allowed into Egypt and said people's lives were jeopardized by Israel not providing care to those in Tuesday's bus accident near Nuweiba. Ten Israeli tourists have died so far, as well as one Egyptian, with more than 30 injured. The tourists, mostly Israeli Arabs from Nazareth, were in a bus whose Egyptian driver reportedly drove fast and recklessly overturned the bus, perhaps due to a punctured tire. The seriously injured were treated in Egypt, with two still remaining in Sharm e-Sheik, and the lightly injured made their way to Eilat. Magen David Adom sent 25 ambulances and mobile intensive care units and 70 paramedics and medics to the Egyptian border. They waited for hours and heard from tourists at the border post that the wounded were lying untreated, but still weren't able to enter. "It is infuriating. We could have helped them," said Bin, who attributed their being blocked to the Egyptian authorities rather than the Israelis. He added that he didn't think the Egyptian authorities chose inaction so that Israelis would die, but "I think they were the victims of Egyptian policy about allowing in Israeli rescue help. It must be worked out on the diplomatic level. The Egyptians said they were in control of the situation, but we heard from witnesses that the victims were not being treated quickly and properly." Bin said that the Egyptian Red Crescent organization - a fellow national organization in the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement of which MDA is now an official member - was ready for MDA to come. "But they don't have the status to decide; the government of Egypt has to do it." But Ilana Ravid, the Foreign Ministry spokeswoman for consular affairs, stressed Wednesday that Israel had never requested the Egyptians approve MDA's entry. "We didn't ask them to get in," she told The Jerusalem Post. Instead, she said, the Israeli embassy in Egypt dispatched their consul. "When he arrived, all the injured were in the hospital already." She added that the bodies of the dead Israelis were sent home Wednesday at noon. Other Foreign Ministry officials, however, echoed Bin in blaming the Egyptians for denying entry to the Israeli ambulances. Danny Viron, head of the ministry's situation room, said they were only allowed to enter Wednesday, and then only to treat to the wounded, but not to carry any passengers. Bin, who travelled all the way from the North to lead the mission, said he was in constant contact with ministry officials. "The Foreign Ministry called Israel's consul in Egypt. We were constantly on the phone with the ministry, but nothing happened," he said. The spokeswoman of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Israel and the territories, Bana Sayeh, said now that MDA is a fully-fledged member of the movement, talks between it and the Egyptian Red Crescent should take place between them, without any intervention by the ICRC.

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