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Alone in an Israeli Hospital, This Palestinian Died of His Wounds

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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Israeli soldiers inspect the site where Omar Yunes was shot and wounded by Israeli border police, near the Za’atra junction in the northern West Bank, April 20, 2019.
Israeli soldiers inspect the site where Omar Yunes was shot and wounded by Israeli border police, near the Za’atra junction in the northern West Bank, April 20, 2019. Credit: AFP
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

Last Saturday Omar Yunes, 20 years old, died of his injuries. He died in Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva, as a prisoner under guard, according to the instructions of the Shin Bet security service. His brother tried for a week to obtain an entry permit to Israel to be by his side, in vain.

Yunes was hospitalized on April 20. He was suffering from a number of gunshot wounds in the belly, chest and pelvis. The police said he aroused the suspicions of police officers when he came close to a Border Police position at the Za’atra (Tapuah) junction. A number of policemen chased him on foot and another police officer blocked his way with a police patrol car.

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 25

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According to the police’s version of events, as unquestionably reported in the Israeli media, the young man pulled a knife and tried to open the door of the patrol car “with the intention of stabbing the police officer.” The police officer shot at him. What is true and what is not in this version – we don’t know. After all, the generic word was said: “Terrorist,” and there is no chance that something will be investigated, even not the assumption that it was possible to catch him without causing him mortal injuries.

What exactly did the young Yunes want to do and what did he hope to achieve – we will not know either. Rage at the occupation and its representatives is the legacy of all. But the rage leads only a few people to carry out individual acts that border on suicide.

Either way, Yunes arrived at the hospital in serious condition. He was sedated and put on a respirator. There was still a small chance he might live, and the presence of a family member could help in the doctors’ efforts to save his life. The aging, widowed mother, could not travel the 20 kilometers plus the checkpoint between their village, Sanniriya, and the hospital.

On Monday, April 22, the brother Abed Yunes, a 26-year-old farmer, submitted a request for an entry permit to see his brother through the “Palestinian coordination committee.” On Tuesday, the Physicians for Human Rights nonprofit organization tried to find out why there was no answer. The emergency center of the Civil Administration said verbally: The request is known to us and denied. On Wednesday morning I asked the spokesman’s office of the Coordinator for Government Activities in the Territories and the spokesman’s office for the why the request had been denied and who rejected it. COGAT referred me to the Shin Bet.

The Shin Bet said they had not received an up-to-date request for a permit. If one is submitted, it will be examined accordingly. It was hinted to me that there was a good chance for a permit. And in the meantime, Omar Yunes is sedated and on a respirator, and has already undergone three operations.

Midday on Wednesday, attorneys Hagar Shechter and Tamir Blank filed an urgent petition with the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of Abed Yunes and Physicians for Human Rights. The lawyers wrote that Yunes’ request “emanates from the essential core of human existence – to see his younger brother before his death, to hug and kiss him, to part with him and allow him to die in dignity, while the person who loves him is at his side in his last moments and to relieve the physical pain and psychological fear in the face of death.”

The lawyers also mentioned that the petitioner has an entry permit into the seam zone area (between the separation wall and the Green Line) , one that is not granted to those prevented from entry for “security” reasons.

Attorney Amichai Gimani of the Jerusalem district of the State Prosecutor’s Office responded that same night: Abed Yunes was permitted to see his brother, for only one day, and only with the accompaniment of guards from a private security company. The cost is his responsibility. The list of companies can be found on the Public Security Ministry website.

Despite its position that the requirement for armed escort is unreasonable, Physicians for Human Rights did check the security companies’ availability: Two did not answer the phone, and a third company said the police must approve and determine the number of armed guards needed for the task. Police approval requires a prior request which is not given immediately. The same company said it seemed it would not be possible to organize an armed team for escort on the eve of the second Passover holiday.

On Thursday, Shechter asked the court to order the issuance of a permit, without an escort. The people of Israel celebrated the end of the holiday of freedom, with Saturday off the next day. The judge, Miriam Lifschitz-Prives, refused to intervene and Omar Yunes died alone.