Text size

A Palestinian woman who was refused access to an ambulance at an Israel Defense Forces checkpoint died in her village in the West Bank on Thursday, a Palestinian doctor and relatives said.

Local witnesses said the husband of Fawziya Qabb pleaded with soldiers at the Jarushiya checkpoint near the town of Tul Karm to let his wife get to an ambulance waiting to take her to a Palestinian hospital but they ignored him.

An IDF source said the soldiers at the checkpoint were unaware of the woman's circumstances because her family did not inform the local military coordination office for humanitarian cases of the ambulance's arrival.

"If we had been made aware of the situation a path could have been cleared for the ambulance through heavy traffic in the area which was caused by a high alert around Tul Karm," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.

The source said that troops had sealed off the area in the northern West Bank as they feared a possible attack by militants.

Local witnesses and Palestinian security sources said the Israeli heightened state of alert had forced thousands of residents to wait at checkpoints in the pouring rain.

Qabb's relatives from the village of Deir al-Ghosoon close to Tul Karm said they called the ambulance but soldiers did not allow it through the checkpoint to pick up the 67-year-old.

"I asked the officer to let us cross but he refused," husband Mahmoud Yousef Qabb said.

Mahmoud said that after failing to persuade the soldiers for 20 minutes, he took his ailing wife back to the village doctor who failed in his efforts to save her life.

"She had suffered a stroke and needed urgent hospital attention. She might have lived if she had reached hospital," village doctor Abdel-Fattah al-Darak said.

Qabb said his wife, a heart patient, was in good condition after being discharged from hospital in Tul Karm earlier on Thursday.

Human rights groups say they have recorded several cases of Palestinian patients who have died because of delays at IDF checkpoints since the start of the Palestinian uprising in 2000.

Israel says it allows humanitarian cases through the checkpoints.

Palestinians and rights groups say the checkpoints are collective punishment. Israel says they are needed to protect its citizens against Palestinian suicide bombers.