The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has issued a warning to the Israeli military after two different women had to give birth in cars in December after being prevented from leaving Azzoun Atmah village near Qalqilia. In addition, on Monday, a woman in Hebron was forced to give birth at a checkpoint.In the Hebron incident, Ashraf Sidr 32, said that his wife 23, gave birth at a military checkpoint blocking access out of Tel Rumeida neighborhood in the southern West Bank city of Hebron, where the couple lives.

Sidr stated that the Israeli soldiers stationed at the checkpoint prevented him and his wife from passing through to the government hospital in Hebron, even though she was clearly in the late stages of labor. They were delayed for nearly an hour due to ‘security reasons’, according to the soldiers. During that time, Sidr called an ambulance to fetch them, and by the time the ambulance arrived, she was already giving birth to the baby.

The two December births took place at a checkpoint that blocks access from Azzoun Atmah village, in the northern West Bank, to the rest of the West Bank. According to B’Tselem, the two women gave birth three days apart in December, due to the Israeli military’s closure of a gate near Azzoun Atmah village, in the West Bank. The village is one of several Palestinian villages that have been completely enclosed into ghettoes due to the Israeli Annexation Wall.

The B’Tselem report adds, “State officials say the village was made into an enclave primarily to place the Sha’are Tikva settlement on the ‘Israeli’ side of the barrier. The only way the residents can get to the rest of the West Bank is through a gate in the barrier that is open only part of the day. When it is closed, soldiers remain in the guard tower by the gate. When residents need to leave the village for any purpose, including medical treatment, they have to call to the soldiers and beg them to open the gate.”

While the Israeli military spokesperson claims that the soldiers are available to open the gate whenever the Palestinian residents need it opened, Palestinian villagers say that the soldiers consistently refuse to open the gate, even during medical emergencies when a Palestinian patient needs to get to the hospital.

The B’Tselem report tells the following account of the two incidents of women in labor stopped at the barrier: “On 12 December 2007, at around 2:00am, Tamas ‘Ali came to the gate in labor, accompanied by her husband. The gate was closed and the soldiers refused to open it, despite the husband’s pleas. After being delayed for more than half an hour, the couple decided to return home, but she began to deliver before arriving home. Her daughter, a nurse, was summoned and assisted in the delivery, which took place inside the car.

“In the other case, which took place on 15 December 2007, Banan Yusef entered labor and arrived at the gate at 2:50am. Relatives who were with her in the car got out and asked the two soldiers standing next to the locked gate to let her pass so she could get to the hospital, but they refused. At 4:30, after a delay of more than an hour and a half, she began to deliver. By this stage, the gate had been opened, as it is every day, to enable farmers and workers to pass, and she was taken to a midwife in the nearby village of Habla. As a result of the conditions of delivery, Yusef had to undergo surgery.”

B’Tselem called on the Israeli authorities to leave the gate leading out of Azzoun Atmah village open at all times, and to dismantle the separation barrier that has been constructed in that area.