Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) have started enforcing stringent restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, which hasn’t witnessed such restrictions in years. It has become noticeable that movement between different West Bank governorates is nearly impossible. This renewed siege has led to the death of a Palestinian woman by heart attack after IOF prevented the ambulance carrying her from reaching its hospital destination. In addition, IOF prevented the woman’s relatives from reaching the ambulance.
PCHR’s preliminary investigation indicates that in the evening hours of Wednesday, 13 February 2008, IOF closed tens of roads and agricultural roads with large boulders and earth barriers. In addition, IOF erected checkpoints on main roads, especially in the northern West Bank. Furthermore, IOF redeployed in old checkpoints such as the Bathan checkpoint northeast of Nablus and the Itzhar settlement checkpoint south of the city. In addition, IOF adopted very strict measures on stationary checkpoints. These measures included banning persons under 35 from the northern West Bank from moving between governorates and occasionally inside the same governorate. Palestinian civilians were forced to wait for hours at checkpoints in winter conditions before heading to work or returning home. PCHR’s fieldworkers stated that IOF troops searched travelers, belongings and cars with police dogs. In addition, troops mistreated and humiliated travelers. These measures are in contradiction to announcements by IOF that the movement of Palestinian civilians has been eased.
These restrictions on civilian movement deprive Palestinians of their basic rights, and resulted in the death of a woman. At approximately 17:00 on Thursday, 13 February, Fawzia Abd al-Fattah al-Darak (59) from Deir al-Ghosoun north of Tulkarm died when IOF prevented an ambulance from taking her to a hospital in Tulkarm. Mohammad al-Darak, her husband, informed PCHR’s fieldworker that his wife started to experience severe chest pain. They called the emergency department of the Palestine Red Crescent Society in Tulkarm in order to transport her to a hospital. However, the IOF troops stationed at the checkpoint to the south of Deir al-Ghosoun prevented the ambulance from entering the village. The woman’s family put her in a private taxi and tried to take her to the ambulance. However, IOF troops prevented the vehicle from passing through the checkpoint despite being informed of the woman’s condition. The ambulance was waiting on the other side of the checkpoint but the troops did not allow it to pass. The family took the woman back to a private physician in the village. However, she died of a heart attack.
In light of these developments, PCHR condemns denying Fawzia al-Darak the right to movement and access to healthcare facilities, resulting in her death, and:
- Calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949) to exert immediate pressure on Israel to abide by international humanitarian law, and to stop the policy of collective punishment against the civilian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).
- Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to intervene effectively to allow Palestinian patients to move freely in order to access essential healthcare in hospitals and medical centers.
- Calls upon international organizations working in the OPT to work towards an immediate end to the policy of collective punishment of civilians in the OPT, to work to stop the deterioration in the health and humanitarian situation, and to allow the safe and free passage of food and medical supplies to protect the lives of the civilian population.
- Affirms that IOF still perpetrate the policy of denial of healthcare through obstructing access to hospitals and medical centers, and by the intentional and unconditional restriction of movement. The Centre holds IOF responsible for the lives of tens of Palestinian patients denied the right to healthcare, which causes them serious bodily harm and threatens their lives.
This report was edited for clarity.