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From the field

26 February 2008: Woman, 66, suffers heart attack and dies after army prevents her passage to hospital

Fawziyeh a-DarkIn the early afternoon of 14 February 2008, Fawziyeh a-Dark, 66, had a heart attack at her home in Deir al-Ghuson, Tulkarm District. Her husband, Mahmud Qab, called the Red Crescent offices to summon an ambulance. The Red Crescent official told him an ambulance would be sent to their house.

At 1:45 P.M., the ambulance left Red Crescent headquarters in Tulkarm and headed to Deir al-Ghuson. Recently, there has been one permanent checkpoint between Tulkarem and the village, al-Jarushiyah Checkpoint, through which vehicles are usually allowed to pass. On the day of the incident, the army set up a surprise checkpoint about five kilometers south of the permanent checkpoint. When the ambulance arrived at this surprise checkpoint, the soldiers did not let it pass. The ambulance driver called Red Crescent headquarters and asked them to coordinate the pasasge of the ambulance. He also called the patient's husband, asked him to bring his wife to al-Jarushiyah Checkpoint, and said they would meet there.

Map of the area.
Map of the area./>

It was not until 2:35 that the ambulance driver was informed that passage along the road had been arranged. Despite the coordination, soldiers at the surprise checkpoint still refused to allow the ambulance to pass. In the meantime, the patient and her husband had arrived by taxi at al-Jarushiyah Checkpoint. The soldiers at the checkpoint refused to let her pass, even though the standing procedure is that persons in an urgent medical condition are to be allowed to cross checkpoints, with no need for prior coordination. Mahmud Qab described in his testimony to B'Tselem how he begged the soldiers to let him take his wife to hospital:

"There were three soldiers standing near boulders that blocked the road, and alongside them was an army jeep. I got out and went over to them. I spoke with the one who looked as if he was in charge and told him my wife was in very bad condition. I pointed to the taxi she was in and told him that I wanted to take her to the hospital. . . The soldier was dark-skinned and of average build, I didn't see him carrying a weapon. I begged him to let me take my wife across, but he said, “Let her die, let her die, it doesn't interest me, it is forbidden to cross.”

I tried to kiss the chin of the soldier to get him to let my wife cross. I said, “For god's sake, let me pass and take her to the ambulance,” but it didn't help. He refused and told me to go back where I had come from. I begged him for fifteen minutes and I realized the soldiers would not let me cross. My begging didn't make them feel an ounce of compassion."

The taxi took the couple back to Deir al-Ghuson, to a local physician, who gave her an first aid and said that she had to be taken to the hospital immediately. The taxi driver took the couple home. Fawziyeh A-Dark died a short time later.

B'Tselem and other human rights organizations have warned numerous times that the hundreds of physical obstacles and dozens of checkpoints in the West Bank severely delay access of sick persons to medical treatment, and in some cases prevent this access altogether.

In 2007, there was an increase in the number of cases where people requiring medical care were delayed at checkpoints. Moreover, B'Tselem documented five cases in the West Bank in which sick or injured persons died following delay at checkpoints. B'Tselem has requested the authorities to open a criminal investigation into all of these cases, but to the best of our knowledge no such investigations have been opened.