Hebron, Tue 8.1.08, Afternoon
Birth at the Checkpoint
Hebron looked particularly dilapidated, grey and uninviting on this rainy and foggy winter Tuesday in January. Fitting its status as the most plagued city in the Occupied West Bank. No people on the streets, the deserted houses along Shuhada street like forfeited remnants of a better past. Soldiers everywhere, but mostly huddled against the walls of the houses to evade the rain and the wind. We met on the street two women from the Christian Peacemaker Team, who told us immediately the news of the day, that the night before a woman had given birth at the Tarpad Checkpoint. We were about to meet Issa, the investigator of B`Tselem and waited to hear from him the facts. We arrived at the Tarpad Checkpoint, which divides between the Palestinian and the Jewish Hebron, which obstructs the north - south traffic of Hebron and which effects the whole town. We had time to observe how several Palestinians crossed the checkpoint. The soldiers were rath er indifferent to the pedestrians, who pursued their own matters and they did not interfere. An old Palestinian peasant went several times back and forth though the checking area, carrying every time sacks, packages and jerrycans and leaving them on the Jewish side. At last he led his donkey through a side opening of the checkpoint and reloaded him with all the goods. A rather cumbersome way of transporting.
At 14:30 Issa arrived with a young man and with several journalists. The young man, Ashraf Siders, turned out to be the father of the baby Ahmed born last night at this checkpoint. The baby is the first son in the family and Ashraf is now called Abu Ahmed. We congratulated him and he gave us the following testimony. In the
early morning hours of Monday his wife Kifah felt that her labor pains were coming in short intervals and that it was time to call for an ambulance. Ashraf and Kifah live in the neighborhood of Tel Rumeida, very near the Tarpad Checkpoint.
At 3:20 AM the ambulance was ordered and was expected to come to the Tel Rumeida side, the Jewish side. The couple walked down to the checkpoint, the labor pains were increasing and they decided to pass through the checkpoint and to take the ambulance on the Palestinian side. They rightly assumed that the ambulance had problems to cross over to the Jewish side, which is completely closed to any Palestinian traffic, except when the drive is coordinated with the army. The soldier on duty at the checkpoint declared that he had to call his superior and ask for permission to let the couple pass. Kifah screamed in pains and urged the soldier to hurry and let her pass. After 20 minutes of screaming and wait they were allowed at last to the other side. There Kifah collapsed after 10 meters and lying on the stones she began to give birth. At this moment, at 3:45, the ambulance arrived at the Palestinian side, after having tried in vain to cross over to Tel Rumeida. The medical team spread a mattress on the floor and assisted Kifah with the birth. Baby Ahmed was born into an extremely cold winter night (-2C degrees) and the first thing the medics did was to rush him to the hospital to avoid him freeze to death. Then they took Kifah as well. But in Alia Hospital of Hebron the conditions were rather crowded for a woman in child bed and as soon as Kifah felt stronger again and after the baby has been taken care of, mother and son returned to their home where they are now both in good health. Happy end.
We asked the soldiers if they knew about this incidence. One of them knew and declared that the circumstances we were told now were wrong. There is no way that a pregnant woman has to wait more that 1 1/2 minutes. She will be checked through in no time. Issa went to take evidence from one of the neighbors, who were waken this night by the screams of Kifah. He will carefully compare and verify several testimonies and B`Tselem will send the report to the army spokesperson and will receive their version. In the end there will be a well researched report with the exact waiting time at the checkpoint and with the respective complaints. But the point is not how many minutes Kifah had really waited! The point is that the Palestinian residents who still live in H2 (Jewish Hebron ) are left without any means of transportation and with severe restrictions of movement, so that the 500 settlers can move around "undisturbed" . The point is that H2 is surrounded by countless checkpoints, barriers and roadblocks and that the Palestinians cannot lead even the resemblance of a normal life but are helplessly exposed to the harassment of violent and fanatic settlers. The point is that Tarpad Checkpoint had been put up between the Palestinian and the Jewish Hebron. Otherwise the ambulance could have reached Kifah' s house in short time and taken her safely to the the hospital. We confront again a reality which tells of the impossibility of Palestinian life in occupied Hebron. As long as the settler-intruders and the checkpoints which protect them will stay in Hebron, incidents of this kind will happen time and again - and probably not always with a happy end.