Checkpoint controversy
Photo: Reuters
Pregnant Palestinian women forced to give birth at home because of fence
In village surrounded by separation fence on outskirts of Qalqiliya, pregnant women prefer to stay elsewhere in later months of pregnancy for fear they will not be able to pass through gate in fence in order to give birth in hospital
Pregnant Palestinian women in Azzun Atma, a village near Qalqiliya encircled by the security fence, prefer to take up residence outside of the town in the later stages of their pregnancy for fear that they will be prevented from crossing the fence to get to the local hospital when they go into labor.


The IDF checkpoint which separates the village from the rest of the West Bank is not manned during the night and thus women who go into labor are unable to reach the local hospital.


In the last year, some 20 out of the 33 pregnant women from the village relocated to outside of Azzun towards the end of their third trimesters.


Hanan Yakoub, one of the few women who took the chance of staying in the village in her ninth month asked: "How am I, at 40 years of age, expected to give birth in a car? Where is your mercy? At my age it isn't easy to give birth, and certainly not in a car." 

Video: Btselem (צילום: "בצלם")


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Yakoub's oldest daughter helped with the delivery after they both realized they would not be able to cross the gate to reach the hospital.


Benan Yusuf's pregnancy experience did not end as well as Yakoub's. Yusuf was forced to give birth at the locked gate itself after she arrived there during the night to find it closed shut.


She was taken to a neighboring village to have the umbilical cord cut.


B'Tselem: 'We appealed to the army'

According to Palestinians and human rights organizations, the gate's untrustworthy schedule makes many pregnant women in the area prefer not to take the risk of being unable to make it to the hospital and thus stay outside of the village in the last months of their pregnancy.


"The nightmare of every family in the village with a pregnant woman is about the night she gives birth, because of the gate," a Palestinian from the local council told Ynet.


He cynically added "we'll try to instruct the women in the village to control their labor contractions and to coordinate them with the gate's operating hours. But, until that happens, many women will continue to leave the village before their ninth month of pregnancy."


The human rights organization B'Tselem has appealed to the army in the past to man the gate between the hours of 10:00 pm and 4:00 am. Despite the military's promises, the gate remains closed during those hours.


B'Tselem noted that "this time the deliveries had happy endings. But there is no guarantee that this will be the case next time. We are requesting that the military find a solution for the issue, even if it is to man the gate 24 hours a day, to open it during the night, or any other solution that will ensure medical assistance to Palestinians that are in need of help in emergency situations."


IDF: Delay was only 10 minutes

The IDF confirmed it had received a complaint regarding one of the aforementioned incidents.


"After an investigation, it came to light that there was a delay in opening the gate because of a soldier's unfamiliarity with the procedures; however the delay was only around ten minutes – the time it took the soldier to go over the procedure and open the gate," the army said in a statement. 


"After the clarification, the soldier that manned the checkpoint went down and allowed the pregnant woman to pass."


The IDF added that: "Azzun Atma is located on the western side of the security fence. In order to facilitate the passage of Palestinians from the village to Judea and Samaria for work, family visits and humanitarian

reasons, there is a gate that is manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.


"During the day, the gate is manned from a fortified post and a metal detector installation outside. For operational concerns and for the safety of the soldiers, during the night the gate is only manned from the fortified structure."


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