A Palestinian worker died of a sudden heart attack on Monday after Israeli forces fired tear gas towards him while he attempted to illegally cross the security barrier close to the West Bank city of Tulkarem, Palestinian health officials said.
According to the Palestinian Authority Health Ministry, Fouad Sibti Joudeh, a 48-year-old resident of Araq al-Tayeh — a West Bank Palestinian town close to Nablus — died on Monday morning after choking on tear gas. The Health Ministry stated that his exposure to the asphyxiant led to a sudden heart attack.
Joudeh’s brother Jabr told Palestinian media outlets that his brother’s work permit in Israel had expired a few days before, and he was attempting to cross into Israel for work.
The Israeli army said that Jabr, along with a number of other Palestinians, was throwing stones while crossing illegally into Israeli territory, leading to Israeli forces deploying riot control mechanisms.
“A number of Palestinians were identified earlier today attempting to cross the security barrier into Israeli territory in an illegal manner, close to the city of Tulkarem,” the army said.
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An Israeli military source said in a statement that only tear gas and stun grenades were fired, not bullets.
Around 122,000 West Bank Palestinians are employed in Israel and Israeli settlements, according to official Israeli government figures. The vast majority work in construction and agriculture; their incomes constitute nearly a quarter of the Palestinian Authority economy.
Since Israel entered its most recent coronavirus lockdown, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories — the Israeli military officials responsible for administering Palestinian affairs — announced the closing of crossings to Israeli areas.
As in the first two coronavirus lockdowns, Palestinian workers have been instructed to stay in Israeli territory until the lockdown ends; their employers are obligated to provide them with room and board.
But Palestinian workers who spoke to The Times of Israel this week said that some employers were providing scant sleeping quarters.
“They told me to sleep in a tractor,” Ahmad al-Sheib, a Tulkarem resident, told The Times of Israel. “Between that and heading home, I’d rather head home and come back in the morning.”