The Israeli occupation authorities continue to deny Palestinians from Gaza access to appropriate medical care outside of the Strip by preventing or delaying the passage of patients and thereby putting the lives of dozens of critically ill patients at risk. The patients are attempting to reach hospitals that are merely hours away. The latest example of this practice is the death of a leukemia patient from the North Gaza district on Monday, 8 August. The patient had previously been arrested and tortured by Israeli forces at a checkpoint while on his way to a hospital in Nablus, West Bank. After his release, he was allowed access to hospital; however, his request to reach a hospital for a life-saving surgery was then denied after he refused to collaborate with the Israeli security. He died in Gaza.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights (Al Mezan) strongly condemns the ongoing Israeli violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that this practice represents, which are perpetrated against the Palestinian population in Gaza. Al Mezan also condemns the ongoing Israeli closure imposed on the Gaza Strip – the context in which this policy is practiced. Al Mezan calls on the international community to promptly intervene to protect civilians and to exert pressure on Israel to end its violations and uphold its legal obligations under international law.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring, the 19-year-old Yousef Younis from the North Gaza district was suffering from leukemia. After passing Erez crossing on 14 April 2014, he was arrested by Israeli forces at the Arraba checkpoint while on his way to An-Najah National University Hospital in Nablus, West Bank. Upon his release, Yousef stated to Al Mezan that he was detained at Ashkelon prison, and psychologically and physically tortured for 13 days. He was forced to sit in stress positions on a small iron chair and was tied to it for hours. While in detention, he was also verbally abused and coerced. He was released from prison without charges on 27 April 2016.
On 28 June 2016, Yousef acquired an appointment with doctors at the Hadassah Medical Center. He succeeded in passing Erez crossing after he was issued a permit by the Israeli authorities, and stayed at the hospital until 5 July 2016. He came back to Gaza to wait for a new appointment to undergo surgery for bone marrow transplantation. After bone marrow samples from his relatives were tested and found suitable, he was given a new appointment at the hospital for 11 July 2016. He applied to obtain a permit from the Israeli authorities to reach the hospital, but he did not receive an answer until his appointment expired. Four days after the appointment, he received a phone call from the Israeli security service who told him that he would be allowed to cross if he agreed to collaborate with them. Yousef refused and subsequently his request for a permit was denied. His health condition quickly deteriorated and he died on 8 August 2016.
Since the beginning of 2016, the Israeli forces have arrested 20 people at Erez crossing, including five patients and four persons accompanying patients. At least 67 applications for permits by patients to the Israeli authorities were denied or delayed: 36 denied and 31 applications delayed.
Al Mezan strongly condemns the denial of Younis’ right to access medical treatment, which led to his death. Al Mezan also condemns the recurrent extortion of Palestinian patients, who need life-saving treatment, in attempts to extract information from them about their family members or neighbors. These practices have been tolerated by the international community for too long, and must be investigated seriously to determine the grave breaches that they represent, including the treatment of Younis, which involved arbitrary detention, torture, and denial of access to medical care. The Israeli practices against Younis are considered flagrant violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, and a breach of peremptory norms.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to promptly and effectively intervene in order to stop Israel’s ongoing and systematic violations, and to ensure safe access to hospitals and medical care for Palestinian patients and other residents of the Gaza Strip. Al Mezan also calls on the international community to demand that Israel lift the closure imposed on the Gaza Strip, which continues to cause a grave deterioration in the humanitarian situation and produce serious human rights violations.