Israeli checkpoints result in death of two Palestinian babies

Adla Abdel Jaber As-Sayyefi, 37 years old, went into labour at around 3am on the morning of December 10th. Her husband rushed to his parent’s house concerned because Adla was due to go hospital to have an operation as it was going to be a breech birth, but she went into labour too early.

They spoke to the Red Crescent requesting an ambulance, but the ambulance was unable to reach their village of Tel because of the trenches and checkpoints and suggested instead the ambulance and the family and Adla, meet at another checkpoint of Beit Eba, the reasoning behind this choice was that it would be less distance for the pregnant woman to walk - a matter of meters, and not kilometers.

Adla’s husband borrowed a car from the neighbors, and Adla, her father in law Muhammad, mother in law, and her mother, went to meet the ambulance that they were assured was waiting for them. However, when they came within sight of the checkpoint a tank was blocking the path, and so in the dark and rain they tried to attract the attention of the soldiers in the tank. The lights of the ambulance were clear on the other side of the checkpoint and the Muhammad beeped the horn, and the ambulance turned on its siren, but still the soldiers in the tank made no moves. Finally, Muhammad got out of the car and shouted to the soldiers that Adla needed to get to the hospital and to let them pass - but still the soldiers refused to respond.

Too terrified to try to pass, 74-year-old Muhammad turned the car around and began to return to the village, but after only ten meters or so Adla gave birth; however the baby died. Muhammad who should have been celebrating the birth of his grandchild, who was to bear his name, instead drove his daughter in law and the baby’s corpse back to the village.

Dr. Hisham An-Na’ana, the director of the delivery department in Rafidya hospital in Nablus, which Adla was attempting to reach, said the fact that the mother and child had not reached the hospital was definitely the cause of death of the boy; “Breech births are not an unusual occurrence - and normally a premature baby would not have died like this. This child died because he and his mother were denied medical treatment, which was only five kilometers away.”

Munira Ahmed Kabaha, 30, from Tour Al-Gharbia near Jenin also went into labour early on the 6th of December. Her husband, Muwwafaq, telephoned Al-Razi hospital in Jenin, but was told that the ambulance could not reach their village because of checkpoints. However they arranged to meet at As-Shuhada junction, where his wife could be transferred to the ambulance.

They drove to the meeting point and saw an ambulance that had been stopped by Israeli troops. Regardless of the danger Muwwafaq continued driving. As he said later “I didn’t think about the danger as all I wanted was to get my wife and baby to the hospital.”

The ambulance realized that these were the people who required medical treatment and tried to negotiate with the Israeli soldiers, to convince the soldiers to permit them to move the woman who by this time was in pain and giving birth.

After this delay, the soldiers examined the woman and let her go onto the hospital, however they were delayed too long and the baby died once it reached the hospital. The troops detained Muwwafaq and Munira’s sister for some time before permitting them to return to their village.

Israeli troops regularly prevent Palestinians from receiving medical treatment, and in the past two years 73 other Palestinians have been killed because of this prevention. Many woman have been forced to give birth at home with no medical assistance, others have given birth at checkpoints and were fortunate to survive, as were there babies. These two newborns were the 16th and 17th babies to have died after Israeli troops, or checkpoints or barriers or trenches, prevented their mothers to get the treatment they were so obviously in need of.

Patricia Smith works for