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Eight-year-old Snake Bite Victim’s Life Put at Risk after Delay at Checkpoint

Thursday, 15 August 2013 18:34 - 5-11 August - Ref.: 137/2013
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Eight-year-old-Snake-Bite-Victims-Life-Put-at-Risk-after-Delay-at-CheckpointDuring the past week Al-Haq documented the case of an eight-year old child, Muhammad Abu-’On, who was denied assistance by the Israeli soldiers at the al-Hamra checkpoint in the northern West Bank, despite urgently needing medical treatment for several poisonous snake bites to his right thigh. The soldiers also denied Muhammad and his parents permission to pass through the checkpoint to reach Nablus, where the child could receive the necessary medical care. The denial of both assistance and access meant that Muhammad and his parents were delayed at the checkpoint for approximately one hour and 30 minutes, which put Muhammad’s life at increased risk.

Tareq Ahmad Isma’il Abu-‘On – Furush Beit Dajan

Tareq Ahmad Isma’il Abu-’On, 40, recalls that at approximately 5:30 pm on 10 August he was at home in the village of Furush Beit Dajan, east of Nablus, with his wife, Fayrouz Abu-’On, 31, and five children. Three of Tareq’s children, Muhammad, 8, Asir, 7, and Asil, 4, were playing outside the house when Tareq heard a loud scream, followed by the children shouting “snake, snake”. Tareq reports running outside the house and seeing a spotted snake with a triangular head, which he recognised as being poisonous, latched onto his son Muhammad’s thigh. Tareq grabbed hold of the snake by its tail and pulled it away from his son, before killing it with a stick. Doctors at the Rafidiya Governorate Hospital in Nablus later confirmed that the snake was from the Vipera Palaestinae species, and is poisonous.

After killing the snake, Tareq turned around and found that Muhammad had collapsed from pain, and that he had a number of bites across his thigh. Tareq, knowing that it would be quicker to take Muhammad to hospital by car, rather than calling an ambulance, quickly gathered his son in his arms and, accompanied by Fayrouz, took him to Route 90, about 120 metres from their family home. There, he waved down a car, which took them to al-Hamra checkpoint, located some four kilometres away. By this point, Tareq noted that Muhammad was vomiting and had begun foaming at the mouth. The child was also sweating profusely and his body was becoming increasingly cold.

Five minutes later, when Tareq, Fayrouz and Muhammad arrived at al-Hamra checkpoint, they found that it was closed and that traffic was not being allowed to pass in either direction. Approximately five soldiers were manning the checkpoint. After realising that the checkpoint was closed, Tareq got out of the car and ran towards the soldiers, with his son in his arms, and informed them that Muhammad had been bitten by a snake. Tareq also showed the soldiers the dead snake, which he had brought with him in a bag, to illustrate what had happened. He explained that his son needed to be treated by a doctor immediately because his life was at risk, and asked the soldiers for help. The soldiers simply told Tareq to leave. When Tareq asked to see the officer in charge, the soldier who was addressing him told him that he was the officer in charge. Tareq repeated that Muhammad would die if he wasn’t taken to a hospital or seen by a doctor, but the soldier responded by aiming his gun at Tareq and taking a pair of plastic handcuffs out of his pocket in a threatening manner. Tareq turned to the other soldiers and asked for help, but they began mocking him. Tareq then asked the soldiers to at least allow him to pass through the checkpoint to the other side, where he could wave down a car and take his son to the hospital in Nablus, but they refused without providing an explanation.

After pleading with the soldiers for over an hour, Tareq felt that he was not making any progress and was concerned by the threatening manner in which they spoke to him. He and Fayrouz, still carrying Muhammad, walked to a waiting area at the checkpoint. Muhammad’s relatives, having heard that he was stuck at al-Hamra checkpoint, had earlier called an ambulance, which finally arrived approximately ten minutes after the family entered the waiting area. Palestinian medics placed Muhammad onto a stretcher and carried him to the ambulance, where they gave him first aid. Tareq and Fayrouz followed the medics into the ambulance and approximately 20 minutes later they arrived at Rafidiya Governorate Hospital in Nablus where Muhammad was immediately taken to the intensive care unit due to his serious health condition. Tareq, Fayrouz and Muhammad had been delayed at the checkpoint for approximately one hour and 30 minutes. (Affidavit No. 8817/2013)

When Al-Haq’s field worker contacted Rafidiya Governorate Hospital he was told by the head of the paediatrics department, Dr. Rima Nabulsi, that Muhammad suffered from hypotension as a result of the snake bites on his thigh. According to Dr. Nablusi, the chances of survival for victims of Vipera Palaestinae snake bites depend on how quickly they receive treatment and on the immune system of the individual. Those who receive treatment within the first hour have the greatest chance of survival. At the time of writing Muhammad remains in the intensive care unit at Rafidiya Governorate Hospital.

Al-Haq condemns the Israeli authorities’ ongoing restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement, including the numerous checkpoints established across the West Bank, which restrict access to health care and other facilities.The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) contains legally binding obligations in relation to the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health, and the right to access facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health (art. 24). Al-Haq calls upon Israel, as the Occupying Power, to respect its obligations under international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the right to freedom of movement and the right to the highest attainable standard of health.

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