A Palestinian woman suffering from heart disease and trying to reach the hospital died in her West Bank village after Israeli soldiers manning a nearby checkpoint turned her back despite her family's pleas, relatives said Friday.
The Israeli military said in response that it issued permission for an ambulance to evacuate the woman but none arrived.
The woman, Fawzia Abdel Fattah, was in a taxi with her husband on the way to the hospital in the town of Tulkarem for treatment for heart trouble and fluid in her lungs when soldiers stopped them on Thursday, according to her husband, Mahmoud Yussef Qab, 71.
The soldiers would not let the taxi through, Qab said, so they were forced to return to the village, Deir
al-Ghoussoun, where his wife died a short time later.
The Israeli military said that because of a heightened security alert in the area, troops were preventing movement of cars and pedestrians. The army issued permission for a Palestinian ambulance to cross the checkpoint and evacuate the woman, but the ambulance never arrived because of heavy traffic inside Tulkarem, the military said.
Troops do not prevent movement of ambulances even when closures are clamped on parts of the West Bank, the military said.
Had the troops at the checkpoint allowed the taxi through, the woman would have likely survived, according to Dr. Abdel Fattah al-Darak, a doctor in the village and the woman's nephew.
"I blame the Israeli checkpoint. If she had reached hospital they could have helped her," he said.
Israel says its West Bank checkpoints are a central feature of security measures that have drastically reduced Palestinian attacks against Israelis in recent years, and says it makes allowances for humanitarian cases. But Palestinians have reported several instances of people dying because of checkpoint delays. Palestinians say the checkpoints cause unnecessary suffering to the roughly 2 million Palestinians in the West Bank and cripple their economy.
This week, a group of former Israeli generals wrote a letter to Defense Minister Ehud Barak calling on him to remove many of the checkpoints, which they said stoked hatred for Israel and could be replaced with more effective measures.