Israel Continues to Deny Patients Travel for Treatment Abroad

Cancer Patient Denied Travel Dies

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) follows up with concern the Israeli occupation authorities’ ongoing ban of Gaza Strip’s patients with serious diseases from traveling for treatment abroad. PCHR fears that this would impact the lives of hundreds of patients, particularly those with cancer and not having treatment at the Gaza Hospitals.

In a serious development, Hasan Ahmed ‘Abed al-Kharti (62), who had tongue and throat cancer, died on Tuesday, 30 May 2021. Al-Kharti had obtained a medical referral for treatment at al-Makassed Hospital in occupied Jerusalem, and the Health Ministry’s Coordination and Liaison Department applied for a travel permit on 27 May 2021. However, the Israeli authorities did not approve his travel.

According to PCHR’s follow-up, the Israeli authorities closed Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing on 11 May 2021, when the Israeli offensive started on the Gaza Strip, banning the travel of all categories limitedly allowed, including patients referred for treatment abroad. After the offensive ended, the Israeli authorities declared that only the urgent “lifesaving” cases will be allowed to travel via the crossing; however, the reality on the ground says that the Israeli authorities refused to respond to dozens of permit requests applied by the Health Ministry’s Coordination and Liaison Department on behalf patients with serious diseases, whose treatment is not available at the Gaza hospitals, and referred abroad for treatment in the hospitals in Israel, the West Bank, including occupied Jerusalem, and abroad. It should be noted that the Israeli authorities allowed only the travel of 13 patients out of the 191 requests applied by the Coordination and Liaison Department to the Israeli authorities between 25 and 30 May 2021.

PCHR received complaints from patients or persons injured during the latest Israeli offensive on Gaza, calling for the urgent intervention to guarantee their travel for treatment abroad after their health conditions deteriorated and the Strip’s hospitals are incapable of providing them treatment. PCHR managed to obtain 5 permits for 5 patients and persons injured that are in critical conditions after it sent appeals to the Israeli legal authorities and Public Prosecution. PCHR has also filed an appeal before the Israeli legal authorities on banning the travel of patients and is waiting for their response.

It should be noted that there are about 8700 cancer patients who are currently prevented from traveling to receive or complete their treatment abroad and their treatment is not available in the Gaza Strip’s hospitals. The health conditions of those patients require receiving chemical doses and radiotherapy periodically. Also, there is a real concern over the deterioration of cancer patients’ health conditions and the lives of dozens of them, especially if they cannot travel immediately to complete their treatment protocols.

These restrictions coincide with the serious deterioration of the healthcare system in Gaza due to the Israeli-imposed closure on the Gaza Strip for the last 14 years and exacerbated by the repercussions of the Palestinian internal division. Moreover, the healthcare facilities have a perpetual shortage of essential drugs and medical devices and insufficient number of specialized health professionals; rendering the hospitals unable to treat many serious diseases and so raising the number of patients referred for treatment abroad for the last few years. The Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip has also aggravated the healthcare situation and increased the burden on the medical crews and the entire healthcare system as hospitals and ICUs are overcrowded with hundreds of thousands of persons injured by the Israeli bombarding. The death toll of the Israeli aggression has risen to 247, including 66 children and 39 women while the number of injuries has risen to 1417, including 277 children and 412 women. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health (MOH), hospitals and medical centers in the Gaza Strip currently suffer from a serious shortage of 45% of the essential drugs list, and 33% of medical consumables, and 56% of laboratory products and blood banking supplies.

Moreover, these restrictions coincide with the electricity crisis resulting from the suspension of the power plant after the Israeli occupation authorities banned the supply of fuel needed to run it, which threatens suspension of medical services for hundreds of patients, including cancer patients.

PCHR believes that the ongoing closure of Beit Hanoun “Erez” crossing constituts a form of collective punishment and a retaliatory act committed by the IOF against Palestinian civilians. Thus, PCHR calls on the international community to:

  • Pressurize the occupation authorities to allow the travel of patients and their companions to receive treatment abroad; and
  • Force the Israeli authorities to abandon the use of its collective punishment policy against the Gaza Strip population, including the closure of crossings that leads to serious deterioration in civilians’ enjoyment of their economic and social rights.

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