Mahmoud Yaqub, Zaban's taxi driver
I live in Kafr Rumman, which is near 'Anabta. The house of the late Muhammad Kheiri is about two hundred meters from my house. I have a taxi and work for a taxi agency in 'Anabta, and sometimes I drive people privately. Now I am working primarily in and around Tulkarm. I can't get to Nablus because of the army checkpoint at Deir Sharaf, which prevents cars from driving from the Tulkarm area toward Nablus. So, when I have passengers who want to go to Nablus, I drop them off at the Deir Sharaf checkpoint, and they walk about three hundred meters to the other side of the checkpoint and get into another taxi, which takes them to Nablus. Soldiers at the checkpoint often do not even let pedestrians cross, and order them to turn around and go back. I do not know if they have instructions to do that or if they act that way on their own. In any event, the result is that passengers wanting to get to Nablus can never be sure if they will reach their destination.
Sometimes I drive sick people, particularly dialysis patients, who want to go to Nablus. Generally, the soldiers let them cross the checkpoint by foot. Once, about six weeks ago, they even let me cross with my car to transport two dialysis patients. That time, I was taking the seventy-year-old wife of Kheiri Sobuch. Muhammad Duabeh, a resident of 'Anabta, was also in the car. Both of them had to get to al-Watani Hospital for dialysis treatment.
When we reached the Deir Sharaf checkpoint, we showed the soldiers the medical documents of the two patients. After waiting for thirty minutes, the soldiers let me cross and continue to Nablus. On the way back, after the patients had been treated, the soldiers at that checkpoint did not let us cross. I went to the checkpoint commander and showed him the medical documents of the two patients. He told me to go back to the hospital to obtain a letter confirming that the two had indeed undergone dialysis treatment that day. I went back to Nablus and obtained the letter, but when I returned to the Deir Sharaf checkpoint, it was already 8:00 P.M. (I had left 'Anabta at noon), I couldn't find the same officer. I showed the letter and the medical documents to one of the soldiers at the checkpoint. He took the documents and told me to wait. We waited for about an hour and a half, and then they let us pass.
In the past, I took the late Muhammad Kheiri dozens of times back and forth from Tulkarm to the Deir Sharaf checkpoint. We would usually start out at 5:00 A.M. I would drop him off at the checkpoint, and he would walk up to the soldiers, show them his medical documents, and cross on foot to the other side. From there, he would get into a taxi that would drive him to Nablus. I always waited at the checkpoint to make sure that he crossed the checkpoint and got into another taxi.
On Tuesday [13 November], at 7:30 A.M., Muhammad's son asked me to take his father to the hospital in Nablus. He said his father was in serious condition and that I should hurry. Within five minutes, I was at his house and he got into the taxi. When I saw him, I realized that he was indeed in serious condition. He was all swollen and had trouble breathing. While on our way to the Deir Sharaf checkpoint, he constantly complained of pain, and often put his hand on his head and scratched himself.
I drove toward the Deir Sharaf checkpoint via the dirt road that bypasses the roadblock near Ramin. Because of that roadblock, which is composed of piles of dirt and concrete blocks, we have to drive along dirt paths, which adds another twenty minutes or so to the trip. After about thirty minutes, I got onto the main road and continued toward the Deir Sharaf checkpoint. After about five hundred meters, at the junction with the Kedumim-Shavey Shomron bypass road, I saw an army jeep. Two soldiers were inside and another was standing on the road next to the jeep. When I was about fifty meters from the jeep, the soldier signalled me to stop. I stopped and asked Muhammad to take his medical documents and my identity card to the soldier and ask him to let us pass so that we could get to the hospital in Nablus. Mouhammad walked over to the soldier, with the documents in his hands. It was apparent that his illness even made it hard for him to walk. The soldier took the documents and told him to get back into the taxi and wait.
The soldier handed the documents to one of the soldiers who was sitting inside the jeep. In the meantime, we waited in the taxi. Mouhammad was constantly complaining about the pain, and I soon felt that he was going to die from the great pain he was in. After waiting for thirty minutes, and because of Mouhammad's serious medical condition, I decided to get out of the taxi and ask the soldiers to let me pass, or to give me back my identity card and Mouhammad's medical documents so that I could take him to the hospital in Tulkarm. But the second that I opened the door, the soldier aimed his weapon at me and ordered me to stay inside the car. I shouted at him in Arabic that the passenger is in very serious condition and is liable to die, but he motioned to me to stay in the car. I had no choice but to do as he said.
Five minutes later, the soldier who was standing outside got into the jeep, and the three of them drove toward Kedumim with our identity cards and the medical documents. I didn't know what to do. I thought that they might arrange it so that we could pass and would return in a few minutes, so I waited with the hope that they would return quickly. Mouhammad continued to complain that he was in pain. I was in a quandary. I did not want to leave without out identity cards and Mouhammad's medical documents. Because of the many army checkpoints in the area, traveling without our identity cards would have been dangerous. Besides, I hoped that the soldiers would return in a few minutes.
About two hours passed before the jeep returned. It was already 11:00 A.M. One of the soldiers got out and motioned that one of us should go over to him. I asked Mouhammad to summon his strength and go to them, hoping that they would see how bad his condition was and would let us pass. Mouhammad barely was able to get to them. When he did, they gave him the documents and told him to turn around and go back. I heard him beg and tell them that he is dying. The soldier told him to leave immediately. Mouhammad got back into the taxi, and I turned around and rushed to the hospital in Tulkarm [note: were dialysis is unavailable]. As we drove, I felt that he was going to die in the taxi. It took an hour to get to the hospital. I took Mouhammad into the emergency room. By now, his condition was critical. He received preliminary treatment in the emergency room. The physician told me that he had to go immediately to al-Watani Hospital, in Nablus, for dialysis treatment. He said that Mouhammad would die if he did not receive the treatment.
Mouhammad got into the hospital ambulance, and a physician accompanied him. The hospital's director contacted the District Coordination Office to coordinate the passage of the ambulance. At this stage, I left the hospital. At night, I was told that Mouhammad had died after arriving at the hospital in Nablus.
Now I feel at blame because I can only receive incoming calls on my mobile phone, and I don't have a radio transmitter. If I could have reported to the taxi agency about our problem, I could have saved his life. But, unfortunately, that was not the case.
Mahmoud Sami Mahmoud Yaqub, age 31, is married with three children, and a resident of Kafr Rumman. He works as a taxi driver. The testimony was taken by Raslan Mahagna, onthe 15 November 2001 at the home of the witness.