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Joint Urgent Appeal to the United Nations Special Procedures on the Denial of Access to Healthcare for Palestinian Patients from the Gaza Strip

28-06-2020 06:59

Submitted by:

  • Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man
  • Palestinian Centre for Human Rights
  • Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
  • Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies


For the attention of:

  • The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, Mr S. Michael Lynk;
  • The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr Dainius Pūras;
  • The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or Punishment, Mr Nils Melzer; and
  • The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Ms E. Tendayi Achiume.


June 2020 marks 13 years since the start of Israel’s illegal closure of the occupied Gaza Strip.[1] The closure, which amounts to unlawful collective punishment over two million Palestinians, has undermined all aspects of life in Gaza and deprives the Palestinian people of the enjoyment of the full spectrum of their inalienable rights, comprising their right to self-determination, including the right of return of Palestinians to their homes, lands, and property from which they were forcibly uprooted and dispossessed since the Nakba of 1948.

Israel’s illegal closure has driven Gaza’s healthcare system to the brink of collapse, with the unavailability of essential medicines, supplies, and equipment, thereby contributing to the de-development of Palestinian healthcare. As such, for many Palestinian patients, treatment is only available outside of the Gaza Strip, subject to severe movement restrictions and a complex permit regime imposed by the Israeli occupying authorities, violating Palestinians’ right to the highest attainable standard of health, and in the most extreme cases, their right to life.

This joint urgent appeal to the United Nations (UN) Special Procedures highlights the denial of access to healthcare for Palestinian patients from the Gaza Strip, and the cruel and inhuman conditions imposed on both patients and their companions when seeking treatment outside the Gaza Strip. The urgent appeal highlights the cases of two Palestinian infants who died over the past week after being denied access to the treatment they needed, and details the cases of Palestinian patients who are currently denied access to treatment. Accordingly, the appeal requests the intervention of UN human rights experts in urging the fulfilment of their right to health.

The current situation is a desperate one for Gaza patients, who face no avenue to access health services needed outside the Gaza Strip. Israel’s permit system, an integral part of the illegal closure of Gaza, is an arbitrary and unnecessary measure that unlawfully preconditions urgent and lifesaving care for thousands of Palestinians. On 19 May 2020, in response to impending Israeli annexation of large parts of the occupied West Bank, the State of Palestine declared that it was absolved of all agreements with Israel, the Occupying Power, including security agreements.[2]

The Palestinian Ministry of Health continues to issue referrals for patients to facilities outside of Gaza and for West Bank patients to East Jerusalem, but these patients are required by Israeli occupying authorities to apply for permits and they currently have no official means to do so. All referral patients have been identified by medical practitioners and the Palestinian Ministry of Health as having an essential need for treatment that is otherwise unavailable in Gaza. A significant proportion of patients are referred on an urgent or lifesaving basis. In 2019, the Palestinian Ministry of Health issued 31,859 referrals for Gaza patients, 70 per cent of which required Israeli-issued permits to access their referral destinations. Major reasons for referrals requiring permits from Gaza include lack of essential medicines, radiotherapy facilities, nuclear medicine scanning technology, specialist diagnostic equipment, specialist surgical techniques, and specialist medical practitioners.

The current health crisis facing Gaza’s patients pre-dates the State of Palestine’s cessation of coordination with the Israeli occupation. Instead, it lies in Israel’s maintenance of its arbitrary permit system as part of the illegal closure. Preconditioning healthcare on Israeli-issued permits is an unnecessary barrier that has long violated the right to health of Palestinians. Following the cessation of coordination and given the current deadlock in the system, it is incumbent upon the Israeli occupying authorities to provide a safe and expeditious alternative to the permit system—one that fulfils the fundamental rights of Palestinian patients and lives up to international standards concerning the right to health under occupation.


[1] Recent materials on the Gaza closure were compiled by Al-Haq, Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), and Medical Aid for Palestinians in a blog that marks 13 years of illegal Israeli closure. The blog, part of the Gaza2020 campaign, calls for the immediate lifting of the Gaza closure: The blog also contains a page on health and healthcare in Gaza:

[2] Wafa, “President Abbas declares end to agreements with Israel, US; turns over responsibility on occupied lands to Israel,” 19 May 2020, available at:

Tags / #crossings #treatment abroad #health #IHL #siege