UPDATE ON THE EFFECTS OF CONTINUED SUPER-BLOCKADE OF THE WEST BANK

ECONOMIC SITUATION INCREASINGLY DESPERATE

20 August 1997

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment PO Box 20873 Jerusalem, via Israel Tel: (972) (2) 5812364/5824559 Fax: (972) (2) 5811072 email: lawe@netvision.net.il web page: http://www.birzeit.edu/lawe

A strict super-blockade remains imposed on the Occupied Palestinian Territories following the suicide bombing of 30 July, with only a number of minor exceptions to alleviate food and medical shortages. In fact, a number of misleading reports from Israeli officials concerning the current situation in the West Bank have recently been published, suggesting that the situation is returning to normal. Mr. Shlomo Dror, the Israeli spokesperson for the coordinator of military activities in the Occupied Territories alleged recently that emergency cases were never denied entry nor restricted access to medical care. The situation on the ground reflects that this is simply not true. LAW therefore issues this update on the situation in the West Bank after 19 days of super-blockade, and the continuing full siege of Bethlehem.

The following updated report on the siege will clarify the questions raised in relation to the inhumane and inequitable treatment of Palestinian patients, the results of restricting movement to those needing and providing health care, and the devastation to the Palestinian economy of the current super-blockade.

Current Situation:

All Palestinian residents holding West Bank and Gaza Strip identity cards cannot go to their jobs inside Israel or Jerusalem, with the exception of VIP married businessmen over 30 years old. No building materials may enter the Gaza Strip. Building materials may enter the West Bank, but cannot be delivered to Bethlehem. Building materials intended for the West Bank and Gaza will not be released from the ports. The Israeli government will only release 30% of the taxes collected from Palestinian workers, taxes which comprise 60% of the Palestinian Authority's budget.

Bethlehem remains under full siege, with no movement allowed into or out of the town. All secondary roads have been bulldozed, and residents must climb over rubble piles several meters high in order to enter or leave the immediate Bethlehem area and avoid the Israeli soldiers stationed at all major entrances. Any non-essential goods entering or leaving Bethlehem must also be carried by hand over the rubble piles. Tourist buses have been turned away at the Israeli military checkpoints, with the exception of Sunday 16 August, when a limited number of tourist buses were allowed into the Bethlehem area. The economic consequences for Bethlehem are enormous, since this is a peak tourist period.

Restricted Access to Medical Care

Contrary to reports by the Israeli military, Palestinians have been restricted access to critically needed medical care. The decision to allow Palestinians to pass to hospitals are made by Israeli soldiers, who have no medical training. Major Israeli and Palestinian newspapers reported that on 11 August Zahya Harb, a 19 year-old pregnant Bedouin woman about to give birth, was denied permission to pass through the checkpoint in Beitunya, a village in Area C near Ramallah and only 1.5 kilometers away from the hospital. After a two hour wait, Zahya was forced to give birth in the car.

The Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees has documented a series of such restrictions (their report follows), including restricted movement of medical personnel and of the movement of mobile medical clinics.

Palestinian Patients at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital

Medical Report Confirms that Hospital Dismissed Palestinian Patient Still in Need of Treatment

In LAW's previous report on the siege, LAW mentioned three cases, widely reported in the Arabic press, of patients who had been forced to leave Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital following the bombing on 30 July. In the most notable case, medical records obtained from Mekassed Hospital in East Jerusalem show that one patient, Randa Hassouna, was admitted to Mekassed Hospital on 30 July, the same day she was dismissed from Hadassah, for head trauma and concussion resulting from a car accident. She was hospitalized for a full additional week at this medical facility. Her family confirms that she had been told to leave Hadassah Hospital on 30 July.

Further Cases of Mistreatment

In another exceptional incident Bassam Mohammed Ali, a Palestinian administrative detainee, has been handcuffed to his hospital bed at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital. His left arm is cuffed to the bed and his feet have been chained together. When he is taken to the bathroom, both his hands and feet are cuffed. Administrative detainees are people held in prison without charge or trial, and because they have not been charged with any crime must be treated as a regular civilian. In addition, handcuffing in hospitals violates medical codes of ethics. The Israeli Medical Association has appealed to Israeli Defense Minister Mordechai against Mr. Ali's treatment and for his release from the handcuffs. The Association stated that his treatment violates medical ethics and violates trust between the patient and their caretaker.

LAW notes that this is not the first documented case of chaining Palestinian patients to their hospital beds. The General and Executive Directors of LAW were eye-witnesses to another such incident at Hadassah Ein Karem Hospital. Shortly before Israeli army re-deployment in Bethlehem in 1995, Omar Shkirat was shot by Israeli undercover units in Bethlehem's Manger Square. Mr. Shkirat was taken to Hadassah Hospital with a bullet wound in the leg, and was chained for the duration of his stay at the hospital.

Following please find a summary of the Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees difficulties in carrying out their medical duties in the West Bank.

The Union of Palestinian Medical Relief Committees

Emergency Appeal #3

Palestinians awoke this morning to the 15th day of one of the tightest closures since 1967- again experiencing difficulty in reaching hospitals, again faced with check points, again unable to work

Stress Levels are Rising

August 13, 1997

The Israeli Government claims that the closure imposed on the Palestinian Territories has been eased. While check points in the Northern West Bank were removed on Saturday, August 9th, they were replaced just two days later. Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem remain under tight closure for the 15th consecutive day since the Mahaneh Yehuda bombing.

Medical Relief's mobile clinics and physicians continue to be denied passage through checkpoints: Medical Relief's mobile dermatology clinic was denied entry into Tulkarem and Nablus

Medical Relief physicians were not permitted passage through a checkpoint at Betunia to reach villages in Northern Jerusalem a Medical Relief medical team was prevented from leaving Beit Sahour to reach near-by villages

Hospital services have been affected:

Al-Makassad Hospital, Jerusalem (the only institution providing tertiary care for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip):

120 employees have been prevented from reaching the hospital and there has been a 50% decrease in attendance

Red Crescent Hospital, Jerusalem:

for 13 days straight, half of the physicians and nurses have not been able to reach the hospital and there has been a steep decline in medical reserves at St. John's Hospital, Jerusalem (the only hospital providing ophthalmic services for Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) a substantial number of employees have not been able to reach the hospital and there has been a 60% decline in services

Palestinians needing to reach medical institutions continue to be at the mercy of Israeli soldiers. The decision concerning which Palestinians needing medical care should be allowed to pass through checkpoints to receive health care is left in the hands of Israeli soldiers who do not have medical training. Already the lives of a mother and a child have been put at risk:

Major newspapers reported the case of Zahya Harb, a Bedouin woman, 19 years old, who on Monday, August 11th, had to give birth to her newborn son, Rateb, in a car at a check point after waiting two hours for an Israeli soldier to decide whether she should be allowed entry into Ramallah to reach a hospital just 1.5 kilometers from the check point.

Unprecedented measures were imposed:

This is the first closure since 1967 that has included the sealing of the borders between the West Bank and Jordan, and the Gaza Strip and Egypt. The border between the West Bank and Jordan was closed for 10 days. When the border was opened, thousands of Palestinians who had been waiting to travel to Jordan crowded at the Allenby Bridge entrance near Jericho in temperatures reaching 105 degrees Fahrenheit to enter Jordan. Just four days ago, hundreds of the 4,000 Palestinians waiting to enter Jordan suffered diarrhea, dehydration, and sun stroke.

In response, the Medical Relief mobilized its Jordan Valley medical teams to set up a clinic at the Jordanian border where already over 600 Palestinians have been served. The Medical Relief is also continuing to send emergency mobile clinics to areas needing medical services.

The Palestinian economy is being hit hard:

Palestinians suffer a loss of approximately $6 million a day under closure. Since the Oslo peace accords, Palestinians have spent 318 days under closure, with an approximate total loss of $1.8 billion which exceeds the total amount donated to the Palestinian Territories since the Oslo agreement.

The Palestinian medical community is concerned: For fourteen days Palestinians have suffered economic pressure and a lack of medical care. The levels of stress and tension have been rising each day, and the provision of medical services continues to be affected by the closure.

______________________________________________________

LAW - The Palestinian Society for the Protection of Human Rights and the Environment is a non-governmental organization, dedicated to preserving human rights through legal advocacy. LAW is also an affiliate member of the Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights.