Two more Palestinian patients of Gaza have died after being denied permits by the Israeli authorities that would have allowed them access to hospitals. The women’s’ deaths bring the total to 15 patients in 2017. The deaths occurred in the context of the Israeli-imposed closure and blockade of the Gaza Strip, which has crippled the healthcare system and forced Palestinian patients to seek the necessary care outside of Gaza. Al Mezan strongly condemns the systematic denial of access to healthcare that has been claiming lives of civilians in Gaza and calls on the international community to act forcefully to ensure that Israel respects its legal obligations towards the population under its effective control and occupation.
The movement restrictions that form the basis of the closure also underpin Israel’s permit system for patients, which is itself lengthy, onerous and opaque, and results in delayed and denied access to healthcare for many of Gaza’s patients. Some patients additionally experience coercion to collaborate with Israeli authorities in exchange for a medical travel permit, while others are arrested, detained, beaten and threatened during the often-required security interviews that are conducted by the Israeli authorities. Israel’s treatment of patients in Gaza amounts to ill-treatment under international law and in some cases torture.
According to the monitoring and documentation conducted by Al Mezan, on Sunday, 27 August 2017 at 10 am, Ka’enat Mustafa Ja’arour, 42, died of uterine cancer while awaiting a response to her permit request for treatment at a hospital in Jerusalem. Mrs. Ja’arour’s first request was submitted to Israeli authorities at the end of April 2017 through the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs and was rejected. She then submitted two additional requests: one on 15 June 2017 and the other on 24 August 2017 respectively, both of which were held “under security check” without a response until the time of her death.
Fatin Nader Ahmed, 26, died on Wednesday, 23 August 2017, at 8 pm at a hospital in Gaza City, while awaiting a travel permit to receive treatment for brain cancer. Mrs. Ahmed sent in her first request for permission to the Israeli authorities to cross Erez on 24 November 2016, however, the status of her request for a permit for treatment at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem was excessively delayed, remaining “under security check”. A similar status was declared for her two additional permit requests, while her fourth request was rejected. She was finally allowed to cross Erez only after her fifth request was approved on 20 April 2017. Mrs. Ahmed’s doctors at the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem recommended four consecutive sessions of chemotherapy; however, Fatin was never allowed re-entry to access the hospital, which is merely an hour away from Gaza. Her three requests to return to the hospital for completion of her treatment were rejected by the Israeli authorities.
Since the beginning of 2017, 15 patients have died as a direct result of Israel’s systematic delay and denial of patient requests to travel for medical treatment outside of Gaza. Further, four patients and their accompanying relatives were detained at Erez crossing, despite having received the permits from the authorities.
Al Mezan strongly denounces unlawful practices that restrict patient access to medical care. The Israeli government shirks its international legal obligations by denying residents of Gaza the flow of necessary medical relief and supplies into Gaza, while simultaneously denying and delaying the movement that residents require to seek the care outside of Gaza. Al Mezan urges the international community to take effective steps to end Israel’s violation of the inter-related rights to health and movement, including by completely lifting the unlawful closure and blockade and allowing for the development of the health and public health sectors that have been seriously undermined in the past decade.