Death fuels anger over Israeli siege

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The Independent Online

Israel's blockade of the occupied territories claimed another life yesterday, adding momentum to a Palestinian effort to attract world attention to the worsening siege conditions under which they live.

Israel's blockade of the occupied territories claimed another life yesterday, adding momentum to a Palestinian effort to attract world attention to the worsening siege conditions under which they live.

Palestinian medical officials said a diabetic woman, Amira Nassir, died after she was stopped by Israeli soldiers at a roadblock while travelling to a hospital in the West Bank town of Jenin. The Israeli army said she was allowed through and soldiers offered to call an ambulance, but it is sure to be claimed by the Palestinians as another example of the abuses - ranging from deaths and beatings to economic collapse - caused by an illegal Israeli policy of collectively punishing civilians by placing them under siege.

Palestinian human rights activists say there have been 11 deaths caused by the Israeli army denying Palestinians access to medical care and six cases of women giving birth at checkpoints.

In the past few weeks, the Israeli army has extended the blockade - a move it says is needed to prevent guerrilla attacks. At the same time, Israel has come under pressure from the United States, the United Nations and the European Union to ease the siege, not least because of concerns that it adds to Palestinian militancy and perilously undermines the Palestinian Authority.

The EU commissioner for external affairs, Chris Patten, spelt this out during a visit this week to meet Yasser Arafat and Israel's Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon. He was quoted in Ha'aretz newspaper as saying: "What does wrecking the Palestinian economy and increasing poverty have to do with security? And if the Palestinian government collapses, who are you going to negotiate with?"

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