Helpless at a Checkpoint. March 14, 2003.
There’s a checkpoint in the middle of the Northern West Bank. Sheve Shemron. There’s a settlement by the same name, which is why, presumably, there is also a checkpoint. This checkpoint is manned by a few Israeli soldiers who like to hide out in the nearby bushes and take passersby by surprise. It’s really in the middle of nowhere, on top of a hill overlooking a small village called Silt el-Daher. The people from the village have rarely been allowed to pass the checkpoint.
Being held up for three hours, B was made to stand outside his car. He’s a British citizen who works in the Territories. He has permission from the highest authorities in the Israeli military to pass this particular checkpoint. His license plate number has been sent over so that he does not need to get stopped every time. It doesn’t help much. He gets pulled over every time without fail; sometimes made to wait for five minutes, sometimes for five hours, usually standing outside under the rain. The sun was setting and the evening chill was quickly coming on. B stood outside, wishing he hadn’t decided to quit smoking only two days ago. A Palestinian ambulance made its way up the hill to the checkpoint, coming from Silt el-Daher. The patient, a boy, perhaps 16 or 17 years old, had been walking through the family’s olive groves by himself, when a settler from Sheve Shemron shot him twice in the back. The ambulance was not allowed to pass the checkpoint. The nearby highway, which the checkpoint’s road leads to, cuts right through the Palestinian Territories, has been turned into an Israeli-only road. Only settlers and Israeli truckers use it, occasionally people like B can be seen along the highway as well. Although the Palestinian ambulances are by law permitted to use the highway, the soldiers at the checkpoints like to take the law into their own hands and decide to forbid them access. After some debate with the soldiers, the ambulance driver gave up on trying to convince them. He called an Israeli ambulance and they agreed to exchange the patient. Not responding to the call as an emergency, the Israeli ambulance took its time to arrive.
In the meantime, the patient was going through physical shock, shaking the entire ambulance as his body went into convulsions. The medics decided to take him outside the ambulance in order to have more space to assist him. They pulled out the stretcher. B was still standing there. They uncovered the boy’s body, and B saw the two bullet wounds in the back. There was blood everywhere, still spurting out of control of the boy’s body. He was moving without control, his limbs thrown around by the shock his body was going through. It wasn’t sure if he was still conscious. The soldiers stood there and just watched as the medics struggled to help the boy. B tried to approach to help them hold the boy’s body down; the soldiers quickly jumped on him and forbade him to get close. The ambulance driver frantically called the Israeli ambulance again. They didn’t say when they would reach. The driver tried to plea with the soldiers to let them pass, at least down to meet the other ambulance. They didn’t let him. B tried to convince them, he was met with a rifle in his face.
The boy continued experiencing spasms and within another half hour his body started to calm down. More phone calls and more arguing were met with further silence and denial. The boy’s body calmed down completely, it was now 9pm, he had arrived at the checkpoint at 7pm. The medics placed an oxygen mask over his mouth, his head dangling from the stretcher, pressed down on the bullet holes to prevent more blood from being lost. B stood on the side, feeling helpless and sick. The boy slowly died, not making a sound. The soldiers made the medics put him back in the ambulance and go back to Silt el-Daher. The Israeli ambulance had still not arrived. B watched the medics and driver put the body back in the ambulance and quietly head home. In a few minutes, the soldiers would let him pass too.
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