by the Jerusalem team,
The situation on the ground in occupied East Jerusalem has deteriorated in the last month; violence has escalated and the atmosphere here is tense. October was characterized by demonstrations, violent clashes, and attacks against civilians that left 69 Palestinians and eight Israelis dead and more than 7,300 Palestinians and 115 Israelis injured. In this same period the Israeli military installed new checkpoints and road blocks on the access points to Palestinian communities living in East Jerusalem. A number of these new checkpoints have been set up in the area around the Mount of Olives. The Israeli Authorities say that it is for security reason but the question arises: for whose security and what are the consequence of these movement restrictions?
The East Jerusalem hospitals network called for a press conference last week regarding the ongoing security measures being taken by the Israeli government. Many of the new checkpoints are placed right outside the hospitals in the Mount of Olives, such as Augusta Victoria, the second-largest hospital in East Jerusalem, and Makassed hospital. These checkpoints cause major delays for all the transport to and from the hospitals. At every checkpoint cars are stopped and searched. Some people have to get out of their cars to be body searched or soldiers come into the buses to check peoples IDs. These inspections cause long queues from which even the ambulances are not exempt; they have had to wait in the queue even when it is an emergency case. They are stopped and searched for individuals who might have been injured in clashes and demonstrations.
This current situation has become problematic for the medical staff and especially for the patients. Doctors and nurses cannot make it to work on time, or even at all in some cases. Patients in critical condition have been unable to get to the hospital to receive basic medical care. In one case the ambulance did not get to the hospital on time to save a woman’s life, she died shortly after her arrival in hospital after being delayed at the checkpoint for over an hour.
It has also been reported that Israeli security forces have raided hospitals in East Jerusalem to arrest certain patients. They have used tear gas and sound bombs inside these hospitals. The UN regulation on human rights (Article 25) describes the right to access to medical care in the event of sickness and disability, and the right to security as universal. For these Palestinians even basic human rights cannot be taken for granted. Local roadblocks have been affecting access to health violating the right to medical care and the right to life.
On 2 November the UN issued a statement calling for respect of health premises and the right to health care in response recent actions by Israeli security forces in and around health care facilities in occupied East Jerusalem. Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), Robert Piper stated that: “Actions that undermine the ability of health workers to provide care to those in need are violations of international law. The conduct by the Israeli Security Forces during several entries into Makassed hospital this past week is unacceptable and must not be repeated”.
In the press conference doctors were telling about their work situation. It was clear that they were deeply touched by the present situation and overcome by a feeling of hopelessness. They plead “Help us to take care of our patients without violence.” The hospitals have become an unsafe place instead of a place where you can find emergency care or convalesce.
As Mr. Piper concluded in his recent statement: “The right to health is a fundamental human right which Israel must respect and protect at all times”
EAs in the Jerusalem team are monitoring access through these new road blocks and checkpoints on an ongoing basis. We have observed long queues especially in the morning and the afternoon. This has numerous adverse effects on the daily activities of the Palestinians living in Jerusalem. In addition to the delays Palestinians entering or leaving East Jerusalem are sometimes searched, questioned or even harassed while going through the different checkpoints on their way to schools, hospitals and work. It is also affecting patients who need emergency care and the personnel who work in these hospitals.
These new checkpoints have been set up as a ‘security measure’ but this measure is violating the rights to freedom of movement and right to access to education and health care for ordinary Palestinians on a daily basis. For the Palestinian population living in East Jerusalem these new security measures imposed by the Israeli military seem to increase the insecurity of both their lives and livelihoods.
Middle East Monitor: Visualising Israel’s new Jerusalem Checkpoints.