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From the field

'Odeh Shahadeh, dies on way to hospital due to unneccessary delay at Surda checkpoint, June 2002

Sirin Shahadeh, daughter, aged 22

On Tuesday [18 June 2002], around 12:45 P.M., I was in my house, which is located on 'Ein al-Hamam Street, Bir Zeit. Suddenly, my mother called to me. She shouted, "Come, come, your father fell." I immediately ran to my father and saw him lying on the floor in the living room. My mother and I turned him onto his back. I saw that he had a cut on his forehead. He stammered, "My chest, my chest." I called the village physician, Dr. Nasser al-Mualam, and he arrived within ten minutes. He examined my father and gave him a medication that, the doctor explained, would make it easier for him to breathe. Then he told us to move my father and call for an ambulance to take him to the hospital.

My cousin Maher al-Warda summoned an ambulance from Ramallah. After thirty minutes passed, the Red Crescent ambulance driver, Maher al-Qaddi, told us that the soldiers at the Surda checkpoint would not let him pass. So we summoned an ambulance from Bir Zeit that did not have any medical equipment, only a stretcher. The ambulance arrived within fifteen minutes. We put my father inside the ambulance, and my mother, my uncle's wife Maha Andraus, my sister Nancy, my cousin Tamer Faiq 'Odeh, my brother Samer, and I also got into the ambulance. The driver, Kamel Mahane, took the direct route to the hospital in Ramallah.

On the road between Surda and Ramallah, we came across soldiers who were at a roadblock manned by soldiers. The roadblock was composed of dirt piles that made it impossible to cross by auto in either direction. About eight to ten soldiers were there. Some of them were standing in front of the roadblock, and others were located on the nearby hill. When we got to the roadblock, we removed my father from the ambulance, put him into a wheelchair, and began to walk. When the soldiers saw us, one of them ordered us to turn around and go back. They shouted at us and mocked us. I spoke to them in Arabic, asking them to take into account my father's condition and let us cross the roadblock. They ignored my request and ordered us to go back. They were aiming their weapons at us. My cousin Tamer intervened and spoke to the soldiers in English. He told them that they had to let a sick person cross because he might die at the roadblock if they didn't. The soldier mocked him, too. Another person - a doctor I later realized - who was at the site and also wanted to pass spoke with the soldiers, but it didn't help. They refused. My cousin and the doctor continued to try and persuade the soldiers and demanded that they let my father pass. The doctor showed the soldiers his physician's card, but the soldier still refused. The soldier was average height, light-skinned, had a moderate build, and was about twenty-four years old. He told the doctor, "Doctor or not, go back!"

After arguing with them for about forty-five minutes, we decided to cross the roadblock even though the soldiers said it was forbidden. The soldiers tried to stop us. They aimed their rifles at us and cocked the triggers. We were not deterred and continued to walk. When the soldiers saw that we were adamant, they did nothing and let us go. We crossed to the other side of the checkpoint and walked toward the dirt piles, which were about seven hundred meters from the checkpoint. After walking around two hundred meters, we saw mucus exiting from my father's mouth. The doctor wasn't there at that moment because the soldiers had delayed him. We continued until we crossed the second piles of dirt, which were at the entrance to al-Birah. We got into a taxi, which took us straight to the hospital in Ramallah.

They examined my father in the emergency room. The doctors told us that he was dead on arrival. We had reached the hospital at 2:45 P.M. Around 7:30 that evening, my father's body was brought to the village following coordination with the Israelis.

Sirin 'Odeh Yaqub 'Odeh Shahadeh is 22 year-old and single. She is
unemployed and lives in Bir Zeit. The testimony was taken by Iyad Haddad in Bir Zeit on 19 June 2002