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Victims of Checkpoint Shooting Include Two Pregnant Women

By Tracy Wilkinson
LOS ANGELES TIMES -- nablus, west bank

For Palestinians, Israeli military checkpoints have long been a hated symbol of occupation, a place where they are humiliated by troops and sometimes shot. For Israelis, and especially for soldiers and Jewish settlers, checkpoints are increasingly becoming the new front line in a conflict that has gone on for 17 months.

Four people -- two Israelis and two Palestinians -- were killed Monday at checkpoints. The wounded included two pregnant women -- a Palestinian and an Israeli -- who survived to deliver healthy baby girls.

The Israelis were Jewish settlers ambushed by Palestinian gunmen as they sat in their car at a roadblock, awaiting entry into Nokdim, the West Bank settlement south of Jerusalem where they lived. One of the dead men was the father of the pregnant Israeli.

One of the Palestinians killed was driving his wife, in the throes of labor, to the hospital in the West Bank city of Nablus. Israeli soldiers shot and killed the man after they said he ignored their orders to halt and ran the roadblock. The wife, who was injured along with her father-in-law, said they heard no such orders.

It was the second time in just 24 hours -- and at the same military barricade and under near-identical circumstances -- that soldiers shot a pregnant Palestinian woman en route to the hospital. The woman shot Sunday also delivered a healthy girl.

The other Palestinian killed Monday was a 15-year-old girl who the army said charged a roadblock outside the West Bank town of Tulkarm, brandishing a knife. She refused to stop and was shot; her father later told reporters in Tulkarm that she left behind a note saying she wanted to become a “martyr” -- to die for the Palestinian cause.

The shootings dramatized what human-rights organizations and some army officers say is the problematic use of military roadblocks in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The army says checkpoints enhance security for Israelis. But soldiers have become extremely jittery, and vulnerable, at checkpoints, following a campaign by Palestinian fighters to step up their attacks throughout the territories and target troops and settlers. And the proliferation of checkpoints further punishes, antagonizes and endangers Palestinian civilians.

In a separate attack Monday, a Palestinian opened fire on Israelis crowding a bus stop on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem during the evening rush hour. At least 10 Israelis, including three police officers, were wounded.