The Israeli authorities have arrested a Palestinian patient at Erez crossing within the context of movement restriction policies that form the basis of Israel’s closure of the Gaza Strip. The patient was seeking a permit for medical treatment in Jordan. The tight restrictions make Palestinian patients one of the most vulnerable groups in Gaza, as they rely on exit from the territory for lifesaving medical care.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that seven Palestinians, including four patients and patient companions, have been arrested at Erez in 2018. Al Mezan’s documentation further shows that in the same period, six patients, three of them women, have died after Israeli authorities delayed or denied their permission to leave Gaza for medical treatment. This figure demonstrates the urgency of the issue of patients’ timely access to hospitals outside Gaza. In 2017, over 50 patients died as they could not get the referrals and permits to access hospitals foten an hour or two by car from them.
According to Al Mezan’s documentation, that the latest such case was on Monday, 21 May 2018, when Israeli security forces in Erez crossing arrested Bilal Ayman Al-Astal as he arrived at a security interview requested by Israeli intelligence agents. Bilal, a 28-year-old resident of Al-Satar Al-Gharbi neighborhood in the city of Khan Younis, had applied through the Palestinian Ministry of Civil Affairs for a permit to cross Erez in order to enter Jordan. He is seeking medical treatment for a fistula. In the evening of the same day, the Palestinian Liaison Office informed Bilal’s family of his detention.
Palestinian patients must be able to access their basic right to health. Within the context of occupation, the obligation to uphold this right falls on Israel, the occupying power. Movement restrictions and arbitrary arrest and detention practices result in hindered or denied access to healthcare, which can result in a violation of the fundamental right to life. Al Mezan warns that the denial of medical care can also amount to torture and ill-treatment.
Palestinian patients in Gaza must be given access to necessary medical care. Al Mezan calls on the international community to take effective and practical steps to remove the restrictions in front of patients, including by calling for international law obligations to be fulfilled by Israel.