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New report on Rafah Crossing

New report on Rafah Crossing

Today Physicians for Human Rights-Israel released a new interim status report on the Rafah crossing. The report focuses on the various restrictions placed on Palestinians trying to exit the Gaza Strip through the crossing, which is the only exiting point from Gaza to the rest of the world that does not go through Israel. The report includes demands and recommendations.

A new report released today by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel discusses the process that Palestinians must follow in order to be granted permission to pass through the Rafah crossing- and the cases in which people are denied the right to exit. The recent crisis at the border, caused by Israel’s decision to close the crossing, brought the situation to the headlines. However, the situation is grim on a regular basis.

Due to the many restrictions placed on the people trying to exit- whether due to “security restrictions”, age limitations, or because they have metal in their bodies- many people must coordinate their crossing in advance. Many people find themselves being turned back at the crossing; they then turn to the Erez DCO for a permit and then return to Rafah- however, they can still be denied exit since the security check is not completed at Erez but only at the crossing.

Men under the age of 35, even patients leaving Gaza for the purpose of receiving medical treatment find themselves being sent back at the crossing. The fact that one is trying to leave to receive medical care unavailable in Gaza does not guarantee that s/he will be allowed to leave.

Those who have metal in their body- e.g. metal plates- cannot exit through Rafah crossing. In these cases the patient requires special coordination. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has learned that the Palestinian Civil Committee recommends that people undergo operations to remove any metal they might have in their body before they try to leave Gaza, and then replace them, if need be, upon return. The case of one person who did so is told in the report.

The report also discusses the cases of complete denial- when a person or large groups of people, or the entire population altogether are not allowed to pass through the crossing. As of 11 August 2004 (the date the research for the report was completed) even patients who have coordination from Erez have not succeeded in passing and are still waiting at the crossing. One of those waiting is a doctor who has plates in his leg. On his last attempt to pass he was denied exit even though he had prior coordination from Erez, on the grounds that the coordination from Erez is not valid at Rafah!

The six page report ends with a list of recommendations and demands. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel demands that all forms of collective punishments be stopped immediately. Also, the association demands that Israel allow for the passage of the infirm and medical staff for purpose of medical care and training in a quick and unrestrained manner, since the Rafah border is the only exit point to the rest of the world for the Palestinian residents of Gaza.

The health system in Gaza cannot survive without contact with the outside world. To download the report in English (a Hebrew copy is available upon request):

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