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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 February, 2005, 17:26 GMT
Barrier 'harms West Bank health'
Barrier under construction
Over a third of the barrier has already been built
Israel's West Bank barrier is blocking 10,000 chronically ill Palestinians from access to essential treatment, say three leading medical organisations.

Medicins du Monde, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel made the charges at a Ramallah press conference on Tuesday.

The organisations also said that over 100,000 pregnant women could suffer from the lack of access to healthcare.

Israel says the barrier is necessary to prevent Palestinian suicide attacks.

The three organisations have launched a joint campaign to highlight the impact of the barrier on healthcare services.

They say that over 130,000 Palestinian children may not be immunised once the barrier is complete.

Almost a third of West Bank villages will suffer from lack of access to a health system in each region once the structure is finished, the organisations say.

"The wall has put Palestinian healthcare at risk, both for patients and medical staff that have difficulties accessing or are denied access to hospitals," said Medicins Du Monde president Francois Jeanson.

Movement

Ruchama Marton, a psychiatrist who heads Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, drew attention to the psychological effects of the barrier on both Israelis and Palestinians.

"The main goal of the wall is to hide the Palestinians from the Israelis because otherwise it may be possible to identify with their suffering and see them as human beings," she said.

Dr Marton said the barrier, which cuts deep into Palestinian land in some areas, is "depriving Palestinians of the freedom of movement which is the essence of life."

Yunis al-Khatib, of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, said 200,000 Palestinians were already being denied free and open access to healthcare because of the barrier.

Israel says it has taken into account the humanitarian needs of those affected by the structure, but Palestinians' right to freedom of movement cannot "take precedence over the right of Israelis to live".

Over a third of the controversial structure has been completed, mainly in the northern West Bank.

Palestinian and international criticism and court rulings have forced Israel to revise the barrier's route, but the government insists the project must be completed




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