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Doctors blame Palestinian village deaths on Israeli curfew

April 15, 1997

ZURIF, West Bank (AP) _ Doctors and villagers say Israeli soldiers enforcing strict curfews have kept critically ill people from reaching hospitals, blaming them for two residents’ deaths and a stillbirth.

The army said soldiers at roadblocks ringing this village of 15,000 residents have orders to let medical emergencies pass, and Israeli government spokesman Moshe Fogel said an army investigation found no improper behavior.

Zurif was placed under curfew March 21 after a resident and member of the Muslim militant group Hamas detonated a bomb in a Tel Aviv cafe, killing himself and three Israelis. The Shin Bet security service later uncovered a Hamas cell in Zurif that had killed 11 Israelis.

Mohammed Kadi, 61, said his 80-year-old mother collapsed Friday after a tear gas canister fired by Israeli troops dispersing rioters landed near her porch where she was sitting. Kadi said he tried to take her to a hospital but was turned away at a checkpoint. He tried a back road; she died on the way.

Afrikia Abu Reis, nine months pregnant, called a Hebron maternity clinic because she couldn’t feel her fetus moving. Doctors told her to come in immediately, but Abu Reis said soldiers would not let her pass.

Three days later, an ambulance took her from the village using back roads. Dr. Abdel Raouf Shabaneh said the fetus had died in the womb and that if she had come earlier ``we could have saved the baby.″

Khaled Arar collapsed Monday with breathing difficulties. The village doctor, Ibrahim Hor, drove him to the checkpoint.

``We argued for 15 minutes with the soldiers. When the patient continued vomiting, our driver just broke through the roadblock,″ Hor said. Arar died on the way to the hospital.

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