israel delays ambulance causing death of 4 month old baby

Palestinian infant dies at Israeli checkpoint

A baby girl from the village of Sinjil, between Ramallah and Nablus in the occupied West Bank, died in the early hours of the morning on Thursday, 8 January. Nadeen Nasháat Jamal Asfour, who was only 4 months and 17 days old, passed away after the ambulance she was travelling in was delayed at an Israeli checkpoint between Beitin and Al-Bireh, just outside of Ramallah. An ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent responded to an emergency call in Sinjil after the child began to experience difficulty breathing after her mother had breastfed her that night.

Mohanad Darabee, a medic with the Palestinian Red Crescent who was at the scene, told the Palestine Monitor that the child was already in a perilous state when the ambulance collected her and her father to bring them to the hospital in Ramallah. In order to give the girl the best chance of survival, they left at maximum speed along the fastest route to the Ramallah Hospital. However, when they reached the Israeli DCO checkpoint, the medics saw that it was unmanned and that the gate had been chained shut, leaving no way through for vehicles. The ambulance crew immediately called another Red Crescent ambulance to come from Ramallah and meet them at the checkpoint, but at this point, baby Nadeen was fighting for her life. The ambulance from Ramallah eventually transferred the girl to Ramallah Hospital, but she was already dead by the time they arrived at the Emergency Response unit.

The extremely difficult weather conditions last week no doubt played a part in this tragic death, but the incident illustrates the difficulties Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have in accessing emergency medical care. Despite the best efforts of the local Red Crescent team, they were unable to transfer the baby girl to the hospital in time to receive lifesaving treatment due to the arbitrary nature of the Israeli checkpoint system in the West Bank.

This system gravely curtails the right of Palestinians to freedom of movement, as provided for under article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. International Humanitarian Law also provides that an occupying power must do its utmost to ensure the wellbeing of the local inhabitants and not disrupt their normal lives. Further, medical teams and sick or injured people must be guaranteed safe passage under international law, even in times of war. Sadly for this young child and her family, this episode was just another example of the daily violations of Palestinian human rights in the occupied West Bank.

The locked gate. Photo by Mohanad Darabee.

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