The AP today (July 12) corrected a false story it had sent out yesterday which reported that a Palestinian newborn died as a result of an inordinately long wait at an Israeli checkpoint. According to the original story, a pregnant Palestinian woman on the way to the hospital gave birth while her taxi was delayed for two-and-a-half hours at an Israeli checkpoint, leading to the death of the baby. The original story, featuring authentic sounding details, claimed that the woman’s husband pleaded with soldiers to let them through, to no avail:
Firial Idries, who was in labor with her fifth child, was being driven by her husband from their West Bank village to the main hospital in the Palestinian city of Nablus when they encountered the Israeli military checkpoint Tuesday evening.
Her husband Lutfi pleaded with the soldiers to allow them to pass. Though traveling from one Palestinian area to another, they were cut off by the roadblock established to guard against infiltrations into nearby Israel.
As Idries’ labor intensified, her husband used a mobile phone to call their physician, Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, who left the Nablus hospital and drove to the roadblock.
’’When I reached the checkpoint, I argued with the Israeli soldiers to allow her to pass, but they were very stubborn,’’ Hamdan told The Associated Press.
’’I decided to check her inside the car, and discovered the crown of the baby’s head had already appeared,’’ he said. The doctor delivered the baby in the car, but the infant boy was having great difficulty breathing and needed immediate care, Hamdan said.
Still unable to pass the checkpoint, they turned back and headed toward a Palestinian medical clinic, which lacked the resources available at the hospital. They didn’t have to pass any checkpoints to reach the clinic, but by the time they arrived at the clinic nearly 30 minutes later, the boy was dead, Hamdan said.
The Israeli military said it was aware of the report, and was investigating, but had no immediate comment. (AP, July 11, 2001)
However, in today’s story, entitled “Relatives of woman who gave birth at Israeli checkpoint say they were not held up by troops,” the AP admitted that the story was false. Israeli soldiers manning the checkpoint had allowed the taxi to pass, Dr. Hamdan lied when he claimed to have been there, and Israel was in no way responsible for the baby’s death. (The corrected story is reprinted below.)
Many newspapers carried the original AP story, some giving it prominence with bold headlines. Please check your local newspaper:
The Associated Press
July 12, 2001, Thursday, BC cycle
11:56 AM Eastern Time
HEADLINE: Relatives of woman who gave birth at Israeli checkpoint say they were not held up by troops
BYLINE: By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH, Associated Press Writer
DATELINE: BARDALA, West Bank
Israeli soldiers did not bar a Palestinian woman in labor from passing an Israeli checkpoint, her relatives said Thursday, contradicting initial claims by two Palestinian doctors who blamed a checkpoint delay for the newborn’s death.
The baby boy was born in a taxi at the checkpoint Tuesday, and was dead on arrival at a nearby Palestinian clinic, the family said. A doctor said the boy suffocated because the family members assisting in the birth did not know how to keep his airway open.
The Israeli army had said in an initial response that the doctors’ claims were unfounded, but that it was investigating the case. The army reiterated Thursday that soldiers did not bar the woman from passing the checkpoint.
The events began Tuesday afternoon at a remote Bedouin encampment in the hills of the northern West Bank. Firial Dais, a resident of the encampment, went into labor and her father-in- law, Ali, went to the nearest highway, about 10 minutes away, to flag down a taxi.
Ali Dais, speaking to The Associated Press on Thursday, said it took him about 30 minutes to find a taxi. He said he, his wife and daughter-in-law got into the taxi and drove toward the village of Tubas which has a medical clinic.
En route, they came upon an Israeli army checkpoint which was closed to Palestinian traffic at the time. Dais, 50, said he did not alert soldiers at the checkpoint to the fact that his daughter-in- law was in labor.
Dais also said he did not remember how many cars, if any, were waiting at the checkpoint, adding that he was flustered by the situation.
The taxi had been waiting for about 15 minutes at the checkpoint when the woman gave birth, said Dais, who was herding his flock of sheep Thursday close to the village of Bardala, several miles from his encampment.
After the birth, the taxi driver walked up to the soldiers and explained the situation to them. "They (the soldiers) asked whether it was a boy or a girl. They allowed us to pass, and we did," Dais said.
The shepherd said that by the time they reached the Tubas clinic, the boy was dead.
The director of the clinic, Dr. Abdel Hassan Daraghmeh, told the AP on Wednesday that the taxi had been held up at the roadblock for an hour.
Asked to explain the discrepancy, Dr. Daraghmeh said Thursday that it was the driver, not the woman’s relatives, who informed him there had been a considerable delay at the checkpoint.
The family’s physician, Dr. Ghassan Hamdan, said initially that he delivered the baby at the checkpoint after soldiers prevented the mother from traveling to a hospital. But he later said he was not present for the birth and only heard of the case second-hand.