Israelis Wound Pregnant Palestinian, Pregnant Israeli Also Shot

Two pregnant women, a Palestinian and an Israeli, were shot at roadblocks Monday, and both gave birth to healthy babies. The Palestinian woman's husband was killed as he drove her to the hospital, then two Israelis were killed in the attack that seriously wounded the pregnant Israeli.

Israeli soldiers at checkpoints have been especially wary since six soldiers were killed by Palestinian gunmen in a roadblock attack last week outside the West Bank city of Ramallah. In addition, the Israeli troops in the area have received a warning that Palestinian militants intended to set off a car bomb alongside one of their positions, the army said.

The shooting of the pregnant Palestinian woman came a day after another pregnant Palestinian was shot in an almost identical case at the same West Bank roadblock, Palestinians said.

In both shootings of pregnant Palestinians, the Israeli military said soldiers opened fire after the cars ignored orders to stop and tried to drive around the roadblock in the tense city of Nablus.

The pregnant Jewish woman was seriously wounded in a nighttime shooting near the isolated Jewish settlement of Nokdim south of Bethlehem. Two Israelis were killed and another injured in the attack, police and rescue workers said.

In a telephone call to The Associated Press, the Al Aqsa brigade, linked to Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement, claimed responsibility for the shooting. It did not appear a pregnant woman was specifically targeted.

The latest pregnant Palestinian victim, Maysoun Hayek and her husband, Mohammed Hayek, both 22, were aware of Sunday's shooting in which a pregnant woman was hit in the chest at the checkpoint in Nablus. That woman, Shadia Shehade, suffered moderate wounds and gave birth to a healthy girl several hours afterward.

But when Hayek went into labor early Monday, the couple had little choice other than to leave their West Bank village of Zeita and head toward the Rafidia hospital in Nablus, 12 miles away.

They brought her father-in-law, Abdullah Hayek, 64, reasoning that the soldiers would not feel threatened by an elderly man and a pregnant woman.

At one checkpoint along the way, soldiers searched their car. They patted Hayek's stomach, checking to make sure her pregnancy was genuine, Hayek said. Then they were allowed to continue.

As they approached the checkpoint where Sunday's shooting occurred, Hayek said she heard a gunshot.

"I saw my husband bleeding from his neck," she said in an interview from her hospital bed. Her husband lost control of the car and passed out, she said. The car continued a little farther before stopping, as soldiers fired at the wheels and windows, she added.

According to the army, soldiers opened fire when a car tried to get past an earthen barricade blocking the road, and disregarded orders to stop. When the driver attempted to reverse to detour around the temporary roadblock, soldiers shot at the car, the army said.

After the car came to a stop, Hayek opened the door and began yelling, "baby" in English, she said. Soldiers approached, and began administering first aid, placing her and her father-in-law on stretchers, she said.

Soldiers ferried Hayek and her father-in-law to another checkpoint, where they were transferred to a Palestinian ambulance, which took them to the hospital, she said.

Hayek gave birth to a healthy girl three minutes after she reached the hospital, said Dr. Samir Abu Zaror at Rafidia hospital.

Hayek was slightly cut on both shoulders, the doctor said. It was not clear what caused the wounds, though it may have been from shattered glass. The car's windows were shot out and it had multiple bullet holes.

Abdullah Hayek was in critical condition with bullet wounds to his neck and chest, the doctor added. Hayek's husband was dead upon arrival at the hospital, officials said.

The shootings of the pregnant Palestinians on Sunday and Monday both took place at a checkpoint on Al Quds street in Nablus, where the Israeli army took over a number of buildings last Wednesday. The buildings overlook the nearby Balata refugee camp and shooting exchanges between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen are frequent.

Sunday night, soldiers at a checkpoint near Ramallah opened fire on a car belonging to a senior Palestinian official, Ahmed Qureia. His car was hit by several bullets, but no one was hurt.

In Sunday's shooting at the Nablus roadblock, Israeli troops said they opened fire when the car carrying Shadia Shehade and her husband Issam failed to stop. Issam Shehade said he heard no order to stop.

A bullet passed through Shadia Shehade's chest, but did not hit any vital organs. She was in stable condition and her wounds were not life threatening, doctors said. Shehade gave birth to a healthy baby girl on Sunday, six hours after she was shot.