Time: 2p.m. (local time)
In the context of continued refusal by Israeli authorities to process timely exit-permits for Gaza’s patients, Masoud Abu Saqer from North Gaza, died at 11:20am on Tuesday, 19 June 2018. The restrictions on the movement of patients requiring medical care outside Gaza is a central policy of Israel’s unlawful closure policy.
Masoud, a 49-year-old resident of Beer Al-Na’ja, died while waiting in Erez crossing to attend an interview required by Israeli intelligence services. The interview was set as a pre-condition to receiving an exit-permit for medical care in Jerusalem. Al Mezan’s documentation shows that in December 2016 Masoud was diagnosed with kidney cancer (in his right kidney specifically). He applied for permission to cross Erez in order to receive the necessary treatment, which is not available in Gaza, at Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem. His request, which was submitted three separate times, was never granted by Israeli authorities.
Saed Abu Saqer, the 26-year-old son of Masoud, provided the following testimony:
Israeli intelligence requested to interview my father on Tuesday, 23 January 2018, in Erez after his application for a crossing permit was denied multiple times. During the interview, my father was interrogated about activities of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip. Following the interview, his application was denied again. On Wednesday, 21 February 2018, my father was able to travel through Rafah crossing to receive treatment at Nasser Institute for Research and Treatment in Cairo, where he underwent surgery to remove his right kidney. Later, however, cancer grew again, around the place of the kidney. We went back to requesting a crossing permit from Israeli authorities so that my father could visit Augusta Victoria [Al Makassed] Hospital in Jerusalem, but the request was rejected three times. Having received a new appointment date, at 8am on Tuesday, 19 June 2018, my parents and I went to Erez for a security interview requested by the Israeli intelligence. At 11:15am, my mother went with my father through the corridor between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, and five minutes later, she came back with the news that my father had died.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of 2018, seven patients, including three women, have died after Israeli authorities delayed or denied their requests to leave Gaza for medical treatment. Additionally, seven Palestinians, including four patients and patient-accompaniers, were arrested and detained after arriving at Erez, even though they had been issued exit-permits, which entails a rigorous security check.
Al Mezan deeply regrets the compounded suffering of patients in Gaza and stresses that the excessive delay and denial practices are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights law, particularly the right to health, and in grave cases, the right to life.
The approval rate of exit-permits for Gaza patients rests at 54%, the lowest rate since 2008. The figures show that the vast majority of unsuccessful applications are delayed rather than rejected, which enables the authorities to avoid criticism for high-rejection rates. In practice, the delays lead to a similar if not identical result, being that effective medical care—which, by nature means timely care—is unattainable.
In this context, Al Mezan calls for a prompt and effective investigation into the death of Masoud. In the absence of effective care and protection, Al Mezan also urges the international community to take necessary steps to protect the rights of Gaza’s patients, including by pushing Israel to comply with its international law obligations as an occupying power and duty bearer, and by seeking an end to the illegal closure.