PHRI: Israel Delays Exit of Women Cancer Patients from Gaza

PNN/Gaza/

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel said in a press release that,  Israel delays the exit of five women cancer patients from the Gaza Strip for urgent and lifesaving treatment by an average of no less than 6 months. The longest delay has been eight months, in the case of a 28 year-old mother of four, suffering from bone-marrow cancer and fears a spleen tumor. Two other women with breast cancer, aged 44 and 51, have been delayed for more than half a year each. The Israeli authorities at the Gaza boarder, which process their permit applications, refuse to respond to queries regarding those cases.

The five cases included detailed below have come to the attention of PHR-I, which helps Palestinians leave Gaza for medical treatment. Having been contacted by these women, PHR-I has submitted an urgent request to the Israeli authorities to grant them access to treatment. Despite the prolonged delay, the District Coordination and Liaison atteh boarder (DCL) has yet to respond beyond informing us that the applications are “under review”.

Over the past year, delays in the response of Israeli authorities to Palestinians’ applications to exit Gaza for medical treatment in Israel and elsewhere have become a critical obstacle that denies hundreds of patients each month access to medical treatment that is unavailable to them in Gaza. As a result of these delays, patients miss their medical appointments in hospitals in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank, forcing them to reschedule appointments and reapply for exit permits. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and PHRI, in 2017 Israeli Authorities – chiefly the DCL and the Israeli Security Agency (Shabak) – have delayed half of the exit applications of patients from the Gaza Strip. In June, some 50% of the applications (949 out of 1920) have been delayed; in July 40% of the applications were not answered on time (742 out of 1847); while in August 54% of applicants (1145 out of 2120) missed their appointments.

PHRI has responded by stating: “Delays, foot-dragging, and evasions clearly demonstrate how the bureaucracy of Israeli occupation violates the Palestinians’ right to health and puts their lives at risk. This is not the first time that Israeli authorities take cynical advantage of the Palestinians’ utter dependency on them for medical treatment and show apathy, callousness and heartlessness and harshness in the face of human suffering. The Shabak and the DCL must immediately cease from this exploitative approach and allow the entry of women cancer patients into Israel without delay”.

The cases in detail:

  1. a 28-year-old mother of four, the youngest of whom is only nine months old. Having been diagnosed with bone-marrow cancer and fears a spleen tumor, she requires further medical treatment at al-Najah Hospital in Nablus. Since February 2017, she has submitted eight applications to the DCL that have yet to be answered. During that time, Suweidan has lost the ability to function independently and care for her children.
  2. a 51-year-old mother of five, who lost two of her children in the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza (“Operation Protective Edge”). Having been diagnosed with breast cancer, in April this year she underwent mastectomy in the European Hospital in Khan Younis. In May, she was referred to the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem for PET CT, which is a radioactive iodine treatment that is unavailable in Gaza. She has submitted three applications so far, none of which has been answered (Attached for a recent video documentation).
  3. a 28 years old woman, She has been diagnosed with a choricarcinoma tumor in her right kidney that has spread throughout her body. On June 23, 2013, she underwent ostectomy at St.  Joseph Hospital in East Jerusalem and was referred to further treatment at Augusta Victoria Hospital. Ever since then, all of her exit applications, including two submitted by PHRI, have been “under review” by the Israeli authorities (Attached is a photo of Abu Ta’ima).
  4. a 29-year-old mother of six. Having been diagnosed with a cancer tumor in the thyroid gland, she has entered Israel previously for treatment. On June 11 of this year, she was referred to radioactive treatment at the Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center in West Jerusalem, but her applications are still under review by the Israeli authorities.
  5. a 44 years old woman,  In 2016, she was treated in East Jerusalem without particular difficulties. Since May 11, 2017, she has been trying to enter Israel without success. She has submitted five applications during that year, but received no response by the Israeli authorities. Note that in June this year she was issued an exit permit with the wrong date (the 5th instead of the 6th), and ever since then she has failed to receive a reply to her applications.