A report compiled by the organisation Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) said that during 2014 Israel refused half of the applications made by residents to leave Gaza for medical treatment. Two of those who talked to PHR about the refusal of their applications died during the year.
“The results point to the abuse of the Palestinian population”.
The report revealed PHR’s findings that approximately half (47.5%) of the applications for permits to leave Gaza were denied by the Israeli border control. These applications were mostly found to be denied for ‘security reasons’, despite the fact that they were made on medical grounds; in many cases applicants were seeking potentially life-saving treatment.
PHR found that during the year, 246 requests from ill Palestinians were denied or postponed by Israeli authorities. All applicants had obtained the appropriate travel documents and knew of the obligation to pay medical fees and ‘make ends meet’. In a data analysis, the report shows that most applicants were male (80%) and that more than half of the requests (56%) were made by adults between the ages of 18-45 years old. Nearly 25% of the applications were made on behalf of children under the age of 14. There were 24 cases of applicants with cancer reported.
The majority of denied applications were refused due to ‘security reasons’.
PHR indicated in its report that this refusal of permits has never been justified and it has led to ill and disabled Palestinians being unable to receive crucial medical treatment.
The report clarified that, during 2014, the denial of medical visas had led to the death of two Gaza residents. One of them, Abu Hashem, had been suffering from liver failure and was in dire need of urgent medical treatment from a Palestinian hospital in East Jerusalem. He was also denied treatment for ‘security reasons’. The PHR report found that the civil administration had demanded a separate medical diagnoses with the aim of rechecking the application, a matter which was not reported to Abu Hashem’s family despite his deteriorating condition. PHR itself went to inform his family, however he died a short time afterwards.
According to the report, PHR documented 15 cases of ill Gaza residents who had been summoned to give information in return for receiving their permits. In two cases, grave violations were reportedly made by Shinbet security services against the rights of the ill Gazans, including an anal examination. In the first case, information was demanded from patient Rami Abu Jame’a, who needed treatment from a Hebron hospital, in exchange for a permit to leave:
“You should serve the state if you want the state to serve you”, he was told.
The organisation said: “Israel must end its policy of causing harm, as it confuses political considerations with the obligation to give permits to Palestinians in need of medical treatment. It must also make a civil policy to meet civil needs. Nearly 200,000 Palestinians make requests to leave Gaza on medical grounds annually, and around 20% of these applications are denied. The particular situation of the population with medical needs obliges Israel to deal with these applications quickly and efficiently.
“Israel must act immediately to end its practice which subjects ill people to invasive examinations by Shinbet security services. This practice exploits the poor situation of the applicants and turns them into tools in the hands of security systems”.
PHR board member Harel Arzi said that the report showed the hypocrisy of Israeli policy regarding the rights of the Gazan population, as well as how it was possible to become accustomed to the Israeli control over the occupied territories and siege on Gaza, which had lead to death. He said: “This comprehensive control over the people’s lives must force us at least to allow the Palestinians to pass the border and seek medical treatment”.