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From the field

Testimony: Soldiers prevent pregnant, bleeding woman from crossing checkpoint and she gives birth to a stillborn baby, September 2008

Ribhiyah Abu Rideh, 56


Last Thursday [4 September], around 12:30 A.M., Muaiad, my son, called to say that he had to take his wife, Naheel, who was seven months' pregnant, to the hospital because she was in bad condition. He doesn't have a car, so I asked my son ‘Udai to take them. Within a few minutes, we got to Muaiad's house.

Naheel was twisting in pain on the floor. I asked her to get up, but she couldn't. I brought her a chair, but she couldn't sit. Muaiad picked her up and carried her to the car. I tried to calm her, but she screamed and cried without stopping.

We drove via the Za'tara checkpoint. When the soldiers heard her screaming, they let us cross. When we got to the Huwara checkpoint, the soldiers didn't let us pass. They said we had to show them a permit for the vehicle to cross, and without it we could only cross on foot. ‘Udai tried to explain to them in Hebrew that Naheel couldn't walk because of her condition. One of the soldiers came over to the car and looked at her, but they didn't let us cross with the car.

I stayed in the car and Muaiad stood outside trying to convince the soldiers, but they remained indifferent and didn't pay attention to him or to Naheel's screaming. I decided to get out of the car too, to try and convince the soldiers to let us cross. I said to a soldier, in Arabic: "The woman is dying! Take our ID cards if you want." The soldier said nothing except, "Step back, step back" [in Arabic] a few times.

After about 40 minutes, Muaiad called his brother, who lives in Nablus, and asked him to send an ambulance. When I got into the car, I saw the baby's head already out, but I didn't manage to do anything. I was afraid something would happen to him, and I got out of the car. I was crying and asked the soldiers again to let us cross and to have some compassion for Naheel, because she was about to die. But they all ignored us.

When Muaiad heard that the baby had started to come out, he got very worried. I saw he was very agitated. He spoke with three soldiers in Hebrew, and then I saw one of them hit him in the shoulder. I quickly grabbed Muaiad and asked him to calm down. I was afraid they would shoot him.

About 10 minutes later, the ambulance arrived, but it was too late. The medics took Naheel to the ambulance and took away the baby, because he was already dead. I was really sad that he died this way, and didn't get to live. Muaiad and I went with Naheel to the hospital, and ‘Udai went home. The doctors operated on Naheel, and we went home the next day. She was in very bad shape. Since it happened, she has been so sad that she hasn't stopped crying and hasn't eaten a thing.

Ribhiyah Shaker Rashid Abu Rideh, 56, married and mother of sixteen, is a homemaker and a resident of Qusrah in Nablus District. Her testimony was given to Salma a-Deba'i on 8 September 2008 at the witness's home.