Nablus – Ma'an – Israeli forces turned away Palestinian medical teams at a checkpoint erected at Iraq Burin on Saturday morning, telling international medical volunteers that the area was a "closed military zone."
Head of the Palestinian Medical Relief Society in Nablus Ghassan Hamdan said the volunteers tried to enter the Nablus-area village where the society had prepared to offer a free treatment day at a local clinic.
Hamdan said the team was told by Israeli soldiers at the village entrance that they must turn back because the village was a closed zone. He said that medics and society officials had made several attempts to explain the humanitarian nature of the mission, but soldiers responded saying their orders were to restrict all entry into the area.
An Israeli military spokeswoman confirmed that the area was declared a "closed military zone for all non-Palestinians," but said that an exception was made for the doctors at 11a.m., hours after the group arrived at the checkpoint.
Officials from the society confirmed that the Palestinian and international medical workers were permitted into the area, and condemned the delay, saying it would cause a serious reduction in available medical services for villagers.
The society regularly organizes volunteer programs for doctors, nurses and medics from around the word who donate their time and perform free checkups and treatment to Palestinians without regular access to medical services.
The declaration follows one week after the detention of two young men at a checkpoint installed in the same location the previous Saturday.
Iraq Burin, cut off from Nablus by several checkpoints and roadblocks preventing access to the nearby settlement of Yizhar and Bracha, has held regular protests against continued land confiscations by the settlements and settler-only roads. The two detained were accused of having participated in protests in previous weeks.
According to a report by the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, a new Israeli military order passed in January 2010 made gatherings of more than ten people illegal, by reenacting a 1967 law. The group said the law violated the right of assembly for Palestinians, guaranteed by the fouth Geneva Convention.