TEL AVIV (Jul. 23)
An Israeli ambulance driver was assaulted by an Egyptian army officer Saturday at the Taba border check-point, as he was transferring a patient from the Taba Sonesta Hotel to a hospital in Eilat.
The Magen David Adom ambulance had been summoned to transfer a Ramat Gan resident who had injured his shoulder when he slipped into an empty decorative fishpond on the hotel grounds. Because of his injuries, the man was propped up inside the ambulance with his legs against the rear door.
Under normal procedures agreed to by Israel and Egypt, ambulances do not have to undergo the usual vehicle and passenger checks at the border. Paperwork is completed later to allow prompt medical treatment.
But this time, eight border guards halted the ambulance and sought to carry out a check. When the driver protested, and Egyptian army officer in plain clothes arrived and tried to force open the rear door.
The ambulance driver, fearing further injuries to the patient, tried to prevent him. Apparently regarding this as an attack on him, the officer punched the driver in the face, Knocking him to the ground.
The driver cursed the officer in fluent Arabic, and the officer placed him under arrest, declaring he and the ambulance would not be released “even if President (Hosni) Mubarak himself were to come and appeal.”
He said that cursing an army officer warrants a death sentence in Egypt.
The incident ended when, on the intervention of senior Israeli and Egyptian officials, the ambulance driver agreed to offer a written apology and the Egyptian officer rescinded his demand for the driver’s arrest.