The Golden Rule of Medicine

IDF (Zahal) Spokesperson

IDF (Zahal) Medical Corps personnel train in urban warfare settings not only in how to treat injured IDF (Zahal) soldiers but also Palestinian civilians and anyone else who might be injured on the scene

Date: 14/03/2011, 7:25 PM     Author: Rotem Eliav

Something explodes.

“Go get the kafias and we’ll start!” yells out Maj. Dr. Itamar Netzer, commander of a reserves medical company, as a combined battalion training exercise is about to start at the IDF (Zahal) Urban Warfare Training Center The exercise, which started the night before, included reserve battalions of both the Armored and Medical corps. The goal: to practice giving immediate, intensive care in an urban setting to all injured persons, soldiers and Palestinians alike.

The Armored Corps’ forces raided the mock city, capturing it and ensuring the safety of the medical forces. With the area clear, ten Medical Corps Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), baring the unmistakable red Star of David, advanced into the mock city, a radio conference to communicate between vehicles.

The vehicles were split into an immediate medical care force and an evacuation force that followed. Among the forces was a Liaison for Civilian Populations, who indicates when to attack and when to refrain, based on whether the threat is valid and based on estimated damage.

Dressed in long plain robes and checkered kafias, IDF (Zahal) soldier heaved, moaned and quivered as they act out injured Palestinian civilians. The doctors and paramedics did not know the nature of their injuries and the actors spoke Arabic alone.

“The injuries are treated solely based on urgency and available care, which is decided by trained doctors,” explains Medical Staff Instructor Sgt. Tal Shlezinger. “They follow the Hippocratic oath and treat Palestinians and IDF (Zahal) soldiers the same.”

“We treat soldiers, Palestinians and even terrorists with identical medical care,” explains Maj. Hamzi Ghanem, head of a medical company. “During my 12 years in medicine, I have never once seen an incident where someone was treated in a lesser manner than an Israeli, or without consideration of the gravity of the injury.” Maj. Hamzi recalls an incident when he helped a Palestinian woman give birth during a mission in Operation Defensive Shield ), and countless occasions when he treated Palestinian car crash victims.

Cpt. Sivan Goldin, Training Commander of the Medical Department, remembers cases when IDF (Zahal) soldiers, ignoring orders to never touch anyone who might carry explosives, treated a terrorist who had approached a crossing planning to attack them after disarming him.

In an urban setting, IDF (Zahal) medics use portable equipment and set up clinics in empty houses, still able to perform high-level procedures, respect the Golden Hour ) and evacuate quickly. Maj. Dr. Netzer explains such a setting was common while treating Palestinians injured during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza.

Other than giving such a realistic and relevant setting, UWTC also employs a system that monitors the location of each soldier, enabling recognition and improvement of flaws, thus minimizing casualties on both sides. Comparable only to that of the US, the mock city is commonly used to train for the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. It includes eight story buildings and seven mosques, detailed down to carpets and shoe holders. Buildings such as schools, however, remain simply furnished since IDF (Zahal) forces would refrain from entering.

The drill was merely a vignette into IDF (Zahal) medical corps standard activity. Nowadays, all doctors in Israel, even Arabic ones, go through IDF (Zahal) medicine courses that focus on combat scenarios.

“It’s come to a point where Palestinians expect us to treat them and know we will,” explains Maj. Ghanem. “In the past, their medics would barely show up, today there is complete cooperation with the Red Crescent. There is still some resistance, especially in the presence of authorities, though we’ve even had joint training exercises with them and a symbiotic relationship is being forged.”