In the past week, Al-Haq documented the death of Nour Muhammad ‘Afana, 14, who was delayed on her way to hospital as a result of tightened Israeli security at the Container checkpoint. The traffic congestion around the checkpoint area prevented Nour from reaching the Beit Jala Governmental hospital to receive the medical treatment she required.
Muhammad Husein ‘Afana – Abu-Dis
Nour’s father, Muhammad, 51, recalls that when Nour turned two she was diagnosed with a rare disease, Metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD), due to an enzyme deficiency in the blood that causes the body to become paralyzed. Nour had a twin brother who suffered from the same disease and died when he was four years old. At the age of three and a half, Nour lost her physical and mental capabilities. There is no cure for this disease but before her death Nour received regular medical treatments to lessen its effects.
On Thursday 28 November, at approximately 11:00 am, Muhammad and his wife phoned Nour’s doctor, ‘Abdallah Abu-Hilal, after noticing that she had a high temperature. After examining her, the doctor said that Nour was suffering from pneumonia and gave her the necessary medication. On previous occasions when Nour suffered from pneumonia, she was transferred to hospital and successfully recovered after receiving treatment.
Later that day, Nour’s parents noticed that their daughter was finding it difficult to breathe and decided to call the doctor again. The doctor advised that Nour’s parents transfer her to the hospital. Muhammad and his wife called for an ambulance, which arrived within ten minutes. Shortly afterwards, the doctor also contacted the paramedics and informed them that Nour needed to be transferred to the ICU as soon as possible. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9174/2013)
‘Abdallah Muhammad Abu-Hilal – Abu-Dis
‘Abdallah, 39, is a doctor at Abu-Dis Medical Centre and had been following Nour’s condition for a while. On 28 November at approximately 5:00 pm, Dr ‘Abdallah learnt that Nour’s condition had deteriorated and he requested her immediate transfer to the hospital. Dr ‘Abdallah believes that the child’s medical condition was critical that day but her life could have been saved if she had arrived to the hospital at the right time. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9175/2013)
‘Ala’ N’aim Bassa – al-‘Eizariyya
On Thursday 28 November at around 5:00 pm, ‘Ala’, 33, an ambulance driver at al-‘Eizariyya Local Council, received a phone call from Muhammad ‘Afana, requesting an ambulance for his daughter, Nour. The ambulance arrived at Nour’s house within 10 minutes accompanied by a paramedic named Mustafa. Nour was in a bad condition when they arrived – her upper limbs were turning blue, she had a low body temperature and low blood pressure. She was placed on a medical ventilator to help her breathe.
The paramedics called al-Maqassed hospital in Jerusalem to arrange for Nour’s arrival but were told that there were no free beds in the ICU to accommodate her. ‘Ala’ immediately contacted Beit Jala Governmental hospital and arranged for Nour’s transfer there through the Container checkpoint. Coordinating with the hospitals and providing first aid for Nour lasted approximately half an hour. At around 5:30 pm, they left to drive to the hospital. During this time Nour’s condition slightly improved but she remained unconscious.
When the ambulance was about one kilometre away from the Container checkpoint, ‘Ala’ was shocked to see the congested traffic in both lanes. When ‘Ala’ inquired as to why it was so busy, people told him it was because Israeli soldiers were thoroughly inspecting cars as they passed through the checkpoint. After ten minutes, ‘Ala’ decided to take a different route to cross the checkpoint but found that it was also congested in both lanes. After a further half an hour, ‘Ala’ realised that it was going to be almost impossible to cross the Container checkpoint and so he decided to go to Ramallah Governmental hospital. By then, Nour’s condition had deteriorated again and she was struggling to breathe, even with the assistance of the ventilator, but she was still alive.
When the ambulance arrived at Qalandiya Checkpoint ‘Ala’ found that it was also a little congested but managed to pass through. However, upon the ambulance’s arrival at Ramallah Governmental hospital, Nour had passed away. The cardiac monitor attached to Nour’s body, recorded the time of death as 6:45 pm. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9173/2013)
According to Nour’s father, it should only take approximately 25 minutes to drive from Abu-Dis to Beit Jala. Muhammad believes that the delays caused by the Israeli authorities at the Container checkpoint are responsible for Nour’s death. Muhammad also states that the ambulance driver used the ambulance’s siren and horn in an attempt to pass through the traffic at the Container checkpoint, but unfortunately failed. (Al-Haq Affidavit No. 9174/2013)
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). In addition, Israel has a positive obligation to protect and preserve the right to life. 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, the right to the highest attainable standard of health and the right to life. Al Haq reminds Israel of its positive obligations to respect and protect the transport of sick civilians to hospital for treatment under international humanitarian law.