Hawara checkpoint (archives)
Photo: Reuters

Palestinians: Delay in IDF checkpoint led to son's death

Nablus couple claims soldier at Hawara checkpoint refused to let them through despite pregnant woman's clear medical distress. Their baby stillborn; IDF launches investigation into incident

A Palestinian couple from the West Bank city of Nablus claimed Wednesday that an IDF soldier delayed them in a checkpoint when they were on their way to a local hospital, causing the woman – who was pregnant – to give birth to a stillborn baby.


Muayed Abu Raja and his wife Nahil, of the Palestinian village of Kafr Kusra, south of Nablus, were expecting their second child, when Nahil began experiencing severe abdominal pain last Thursday.


The couple rushed to the hospital in Nablus was reportedly stopped by an IDF soldier in the Hawara checkpoint, claiming they did not have the proper documentation to cross. After nearly 50 minutes, a Palestinian ambulance arrived at the checkpoint, but the emergency delivery ended in tragedy.


"I've had people here from the Red Cross and B'Tselem, and every time they want us to tell our story it just tears us up inside," Raja told Ynet.


According to him, once the couple understood that Nahil had to get to a hospital, they decided not to wait for an ambulance to arrive from a neighboring village, opting instead to use a relative's car, which was given a Civil Administration permit to travel between Kafr Kusra the Jordan Valley.

'Feels like my life is over.' Muayed Abu Raja (Photo: Raya Yaron)  


"We were hoping to save time by going straight through Hawara. The soldiers at the Zaatra checkpoint, the first checkpoint we crossed, were very nice. They took one look at Nahil and let us through, but then we got to Hawara and all hell broke loose," he said.


"The soldier wouldn’t let me drive through and said he had to clear it with his commander. Twenty minutes later, he and another soldier came back and they said the car didn’t have the necessary permit for the Hawara checkpoint. My wife went into labor and then the baby's head was crowning. I pleaded with them but they wouldn’t listen."


'Soldiers refused to listen'

At this point, he continued, two more soldiers approached the car, "but all they wanted to do was find out what the ruckus was about. They were yelling at us, and I begged them to let my wife get to the hospital. I told them I was willing to stay at the checkpoint, but they told us that if we wanted to we could walk.


"I told them the car had all the necessary permits, that we had work permits that were given to us by the Israeli authorities, but they just refused to listen."


At that point, he added, a Red Crescent ambulance finally arrived at the Palestinian side of the checkpoint. The soldiers allowed the ambulance to take Nahil back to its Palestinian side, en route to the Nablus hospital; but according to Raja, within minutes the paramedics told him the baby was stillborn.


"I felt like my life was over. My son died because a soldier wouldn’t let me through the checkpoint… I know the procedures but I know they make exceptions for humanitarian cases. I wanted to get to Nablus, I wasn't trying to get to Tel Aviv. I don’t care if they would have made us stay there (in Nablus), as long as we were able to save the baby.


"This only proves that sometimes these things have nothing to do with policy. This was one soldier's doing… he decided to be a tough guy and this is the result."


The next day, said Raja, he was stopped again, this time on his way back from the Nablus hospital. His dead son was in a small coffin in the car. "A soldier stopped me for an inspection and asked what was in the box, so I opened it and showed him.


"Apparently he thought it was funny, because he called another soldier over to take a look. They gave me this big smile and let me through. I guess it was their way of expressing their condolences."


The Rajas are now considering filing a civil suit against the IDF. The Palestinian District Coordination Office referred the couple to its Israeli counterpart in Hawara, but he is afraid an official complaint would prove detrimental to him and his family.


The IDF said in response that the incident was being investigated. 


פרסום ראשון: 09.10.08, 15:18
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