Concessions in response to workers protest of overcrowding were short-lived, Palestinians say. A 38-year-old Palestinian laborer dies in Israel’s Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint in the West Bank.
A Palestinian man died at the Sha’ar Ephraim checkpoint Wednesday, just a week after Palestinian laborers there staged a strike to protest overcrowding and poor treatment from guards.
Ahmad Samih Abdir, 38, from the Tulkarem area of the West Bank, collapsed inside a turnstile in the checkpoint, according to his brother. Medics at the checkpoint declared him dead shortly thereafter. Abdir didn’t have any medical problems, according to his brother, and he leaves behind a wife and five children.
A week ago, thousands of Palestinian laborers refused to pass through the checkpoint in protest of the conditions there. They demanded that more inspection checkpoints be staffed and that the guards, employed by private security contractor “White Snow,” treat them better.
When I spoke to the Palestinians who use the checkpoint last week, a day after their strike, they explained that people often faint, are injured and trampled there, sometimes resulting in death.
The security company that runs the checkpoint on contract from the Defense Ministry responded to the strike by promising to improve conditions. Indeed, when we visited the following day, more inspection points were open.
The Palestinian laborers were satisfied with their achievements last week, but they all expressed that the improvements wouldn’t last long. According to a report from the Worker’s Hotline NGO and laborers with whom we spoke, overcrowding returned within a matter of days.
Between 6,000 and 9,000 people, all of whom have Israeli work permits, pass through the checkpoint every day in the pre-dawn hours in order to make it to their workplaces in the center of the country.
Abdir was one of those workers, waking up at 3 a.m each day in order to make it to his construction job in the center of Israel.
His body was taken by a Palestinian ambulance to the West Bank pathological center in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem. His funeral was expected to take place on Thursday.
Worker’s Hotline executive director Ala Khatib responded that, “Abdir’s death must be a red flag reminding policy makers of their obligation to protect the lives and security of tens of thousands of Palestinian laborers on their way to work in Israel each morning.”
Israeli authorities must lengthen the checkpoint’s operating hours and number of inspection points, Khatib added. The Worker’s Hotline is considering filing a court petition to force the Defense Ministry to ensure the safety of Palestinian workers, it said.
This article was first published on +972’s Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call. Read it in Hebrew here.