Fourteen-year-old Shadi Sani's eyes protrude and he has lost the ability to speak. His father Abu Shali, seated at Shadi's bedside, speaks on his behalf via a Palestinian interpreter from Gaza. 'He understands some conversation,' Abu Shali offers. 'Feel here on his head,' he instructs, guiding my hand to a concave spot covered with rough, post-shave growth. 'He had brain surgery to relieve pressure. They removed part here.' Shadi's breathing is laboured and his food intake comes via an intravenous drip. Sitting upright is a challenge and daily rehab is helping him relearn how to walk. As I sit talking with his father, he sporadically offers up broad smiles - the kind that prompt an urge to squeeze his hand or give him a hug. Shadi is extremely lucky. He was able to get urgent treatment from military doctors at an Israeli army base in the occupied West Bank. He has been in Alyn Orthopaedic Rehab Facility for Children since January. His mother Tamam, seated on his other side, says the family doesn't know when he'll be released home to Ramallah. 'He needs constant care. He can't do anything for himself. But, inshallah, he's alive!' Tamam exclaims. Between sips of cappuccino at an upscale Tel Aviv cafe, Dr Eran Poran recalls the day Shadi came in. 'It was December. Raining and cold outside. I got a radio call to come to the gate. Urgent,' recalls Dr Poran. 'The guard told me a taxi with a few Palestinians had pulled up and that they were screaming for help. A boy had been hurt. 'So I went with another officer. We went outside the gate - we can't take the chance of letting Palestinians inside the army base, for security reasons. The officer with me turned pale. I knew it wasn't good. 'At first glance I saw a kid who looked to be about 12. He was pasty, unconscious and bleeding from facial orifices. He was clearly in critical condition, so I called for an entire team to come help me. We worked on him on the ground right there outside the gate.' As Dr Poran and fellow army doctors and medics administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation and stabilised the boy, the cousin who drove the boy to the base relayed what had happened. While home alone in his Ramallah village, Shadi had fallen from the railing-free third floor of his home on to his head. The cousin found him unconscious on the ground and brought him to the army base because he had heard there were a doctor and clinic on the grounds. 'I decided to radio for a military helicopter and evacuate the child to an Israeli hospital,' Dr Poran continues. 'He had clearly suffered brain damage and needed the type of acute care he couldn't get at Ramallah Hospital. 'It was a risk - having a helicopter land there outside the gate. We were vulnerable to sniper fire or attack from surrounding hillsides. We were all at risk working on him out there in the open surrounded by Arab villages.' But the middle-aged physician wearing a knitted skullcap made a professional, life-saving medical decision. 'Yes, I am religious,' he says quietly, eyes slightly clouding. 'I keep religious law and the Sabbath. But if I see a wounded 14-year-old boy it doesn't matter that he's Palestinian. I don't ask questions. It was as if he was my own son. You don't not take care of a kid.' Dr Poran and his co-workers are in an invidious position. Halamish Army Base is surrounded by hillsides covered with lush vegetation in spring with single-level homes nestling among olive groves. Craggy and dry in summer, it reminds one of the Greek islands. But road signs indicate some of the area's fiercest Jewish settlements - Shiloh, El Khana and Beit El - bordered by Palestinian landmarks such as Bir Zeit University. These serve as reminders, if any are needed, that this is political turf. Occupied territories to some, land appropriated by divine right - and the Israeli government - to others. Halamish base was set up in the late 1990s to protect a thousand or so Jews in the Israeli government-subsidised Halamish Settlement nearby. It also serves as a sortie point for military operations inside Ramallah. What the soldiers get up to on these outings is classified information, but the fact that a military doctor accompanies each excursion is not. Physicians are on board to administer emergency first aid to soldiers. On base, the medical clinic is housed inside a former British police barracks dating back before Israeli statehood in 1948. Narrow in procedural capabilities, the clinic offers life-saving measures; it's a place to buy time. And since the start of the millennium, local Palestinians have been using it for just that. Around 2000, says brigade chief medical officer Sivan Biton, a presiding doctor set a precedent by treating a Palestinian who pulled up at the gate. Word got out among local villages, and now the army doctors treat up to half a dozen emergency Palestinian cases - heart attacks, work accidents, car-accident injuries - a month. 'We're the only army base in the country offering this service to surrounding Arab villages,' the M16-toting young woman says. Such a symbiosis raises several questions. Why would Palestinians opt for treatment at the hands of the hated Israeli army rather than head to the closest Palestinian hospital? And why would an Israeli military doctor endanger an entire base by offering treatment? Are the doctors treating people wounded during raids? And most important, aren't the two sides in a state of conflict? 'You would think there would be a stigma attached to coming here,' says Halamish base Chief Medical Officer Itay Wiser, shrugging his shoulders. 'For villagers we're closer than Ramallah Hospital. And sometimes, quite frankly, families come here hoping we'll refer them out to Israel's hospitals. They know the treatment is better.' But young Shadi Sani's father confirms: treatment has been thorough. How does he feel about getting medical care from an Israeli hospital? The patriarch shifts his eyes and avoids answering. The interpreter intervenes: 'Look, we know medical treatment in Israeli hospitals is better than we can get in the territories. The situation in Gaza and the West Bank prevents us from getting superior care.' As for endangering brigades, Dr Wiser says providing treatment is about judgment calls. 'I had a young psychotic man show up here with a few friends. He was yelling, waving his arms and frantic; we were extremely cautious in treating him because we thought he may be a suicide bomber,' Dr Wiser recalls. Deemed bona fide mentally unstable, he was sedated and referred to Ramallah Hospital. None of the doctors has treated anyone injured in a military raid. Yet. But about the two sides being in a state of virtual war? 'I treat Palestinians as a doctor because, first and foremost, we're administering medical treatment. That's why I'm here,' Dr Wiser says. So is it a guilt thing? Compensation for occupation? 'I don't think so,' Dr Wiser says. 'It's to show who we are as Israelis, first and foremost. We all read the papers and know what's happening in the news. And as doctors we take an oath; we're supposed to live up to that. First and foremost we're human beings.'