In Bethlehem

Over the past year, as parts of the West Bank have been sealed off, pregnant women have been unable to reach the only maternity hospital, Holy Family Hospital in Bethlehem. Until the start of Intifada II, the hospital delivered three thousand babies a year, and treated approximately fourteen thousand women, many of whom faced high-risk pregnancies. Over the past year, as access to the city of Bethlehem has been restricted by Israeli controls, the number of births has fallen in the hospital. In addition, its mobile unit-a truck equipped to offer prenatal examinations and deliver babies in remote areas-has been unable to function because of travel restrictions. The hospital, nonetheless, has carried on, even under direct fire.

In mid-October, when Israeli Defense Forces occupied parts of the West Bank, including Bethlehem, the hospital found itself threatened. On October 20, a building adjacent to its oxygen depot burnt out of control because Israeli tanks barred the way to fire engines. Only the intervention of the mayor and the French consul brought help. The following three nights the hospital grounds and buildings were shelled and shot at by Israeli tanks and helicopters with damage to the grounds and to several buildings. Windows in the intensive care nursery and patients’ rooms were shattered. A crèche in the complex, which usually houses and cares for some sixty babies and young children, had to be...

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