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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 02:43 GMT
Pregnant women under fire
The third wounded woman to give birth was Jewish
Human rights groups have been drawing attention to the threat to women in labour in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - after three pregnant women were injured within 24 hours.

"The occupation is killing us all," said a press release by the Israeli group Gush Shalom, which released details of the three shooting incidents.

I was afraid that something would happen to us, my husband told me before we left the house that maybe we would live to see the baby, and maybe we would not

Mother Maysun Hayek
The women - one Israeli and two Palestinian - were all shot and wounded, but all subsequently gave birth to healthy children.

The Palestinian women came under fire from Israeli troops in the West Bank as they rushed through the same Israeli checkpoint on consecutive nights, both risking their lives to reach hospital in time to give birth.

And later on Monday, a pregnant Israeli settler was shot in the stomach as Palestinian gunmen opened fire on vehicles near a Jewish settlement.

Maysun Hayek was wounded at an Israeli checkpoint
The third incident was so similar in outcome to the previous two as to fuel speculation that it was a revenge attack.

Israeli troops are said to be particularly on edge following an attack by Palestinian gunmen on a West Bank checkpoint last week which left six of their colleagues dead.

The army said in both cases the Palestinian drivers had ignored repeated commands to stop and appeared to be trying to break through the roadblock.

The soldiers had assumed they were under attack and opened fire.

Travel fears

In the second incident, which took place before dawn on Monday morning at Balata near Nablus, the baby's father died in the shooting. Doctors said he had 25 bullet wounds.

A healthy and perfect baby girl came out, in situations like this you don't wait around

Israeli doctor
And the man's 64-year-old father - who was travelling with the family in the hope that the presence of an old man would make their journey safer - received injuries which could leave him paralysed from the neck down.

Mother Maysun Hayek said she had tried to hold out till daytime after hearing about Sunday's incident.

"I was afraid that something would happen to us," she said. "My husband told me before we left the house that maybe we would live to see the baby, and maybe we would not."

'No waiting around

As night fell on Monday, Palestinians opened fire on an Israeli car waiting at a roadblock near the Jewish settlement of Nokdim, south of Bethlehem.

Two men were killed and a pregnant woman seriously wounded.

She gave birth by Caesarean section an hour after the attack in a Jerusalem hospital, and is said to be out of danger.

"A healthy and perfect baby girl came out. In situations like this, you don't wait around," Dr Yuval Weiss told Israeli TV.

The BBC's Orla Guerin
"Yet more horror after a day of bloodshed"
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Gideon Meir
"It should not happen but it happened"
Adam Shapiro, International Checkpoint Watch
"You could see the footprints on their heads"
See also:

25 Feb 02 | Middle East
Fresh attacks target Israeli civilians
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