An increasing number of Palestinians have died after being denied passage through Israeli checkpoints, according to the latest United Nations humanitarian report on the occupied Palestinian territory.
The latest incident occurred in August when a 76-year-old woman from Barta’a a-Sharqiya in Jenin district with heart problems died after Israeli soldiers refused to allow her to pass a gate in order to reach the hospital in Jenin, the Humanitarian Monitor Report for August said.
The Monitor, a monthly report of key humanitarian indicators and field observations collected by UN agencies, noted that July and August witnessed the highest total number of Israeli settler incidents against Palestinians in the occupied Territory in 2007, 37 and 30 respectively, a significant increase over the previous two months and considerably higher than the 2006 monthly average of 20.
Children under 18 also continued to be victims of Israeli-Palestinian violence and of conflict within the Palestinian community, with a three-fold increase in deaths in August compared to July.
Since the beginning of the second Intifada (Palestinian uprising) in 2000, 48 people have died after they were denied passage through an Israeli checkpoint. The vast majority of those deaths, 34, occurred during 2001 and 2002. After international condemnation, the number of deaths then dropped dramatically to an average of 2 or 3 per year, but from 1 January to 31 August this year five people have died because they were unable to access medical attention, the Monitor said.
“The figure also corresponds to a disturbing increase in the number of delays and denials of ambulances at checkpoints,” it added, noting that while in 2006 there was a monthly average of 10 delays or denials of ambulance access, the monthly average for 2007 is 53.
“Under international humanitarian law there is an obligation to ensure that the sick, aged, feeble, and expectant mothers be accorded particular protection and respect,” the Monitor said. “The IDF (Israeli army) claims that soldiers are informed of a special procedure related to persons requiring medical treatment, which is intended to expedite their crossing at checkpoints.
“By obstructing ambulances and denying people medical care in emergency situations, soldiers not only violate those procedures, but also contribute to the unnecessary deaths
of the sick and wounded,” it added.
On settler incidents the Monitor noted that on 2 August, two Israeli settlers from Mitzpe Ya’ir outpost in southern Hebron district attacked a UN vehicle carrying three UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) employees and two Israeli journalists. One settler broke the windshield of the vehicle, injuring one OCHA employee in the eye. Israeli soldiers and police intervened and detained the two settlers.
“The issue of settler violence against Palestinian civilians will be an issue of particular concern in the coming months as Palestinians throughout the West Bank attempt to harvest their olive crop,” it said.
On Palestinian children, the Monitor reported a three-fold increase in those killed in August compared to July – 11 to four – bringing the 2007 total to 70, 47 per cent of whom were killed by the Israeli armed forces, 44 per cent by Palestinians and 9 percent by unexploded ordnance.
In August, eight were killed by the IDF, two by a Palestinian Qassam rocket that exploded in Palestinian territory and one in internal violence. Of those killed by the IDF, two, aged 9 and 12 years, were allegedly present near a rocket launcher and were hit by a surface-to-surface missile fired by Israeli soldiers.
As previous reports have noted, the Monitor stressed that the continued closure of the principle Gaza crossing points at Karni and Rafah have had a significant impact on the daily lives of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents. The closure has been effective since June following the defeat of Fatah forces by Hamas, which resulted in a break down in Israeli-Palestinian coordination mechanisms at the crossings.
On the West Bank, Bethlehem and Hebron-area farmers have been severely affect by the inability to effectively market their grape harvest due to tightened Israeli internal closures, including denial of access to their lands especially around Israeli settlements, and the loss of markets in Israel, abroad, Gaza and the northern West Bank.