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Israel-Gaza Update: Lull In Gaza? Not For The Sick

Lull In Gaza? Not For The Sick - Israel Gaza Update 06 Jul 2008

In spite of the agreement between Israel and Hamas (in effect since 21.6.08), there has been no improvement in Israeli policy toward patients in Gaza, and it even appears to have worsened.

Added to the impediments imposed by the GSS on people seeking to leave Gaza for medical treatment, patients are suffering increasing bureaucratic difficulties caused by the army, which prevent them from realizing their right to health.

Decline in the number of patients leaving via Erez Crossing

In the past month and a half there has been a decline in the average number of patients leaving Gazavia the Erez crossing to receive treatment. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gazaand the Palestinian representatives at Erez crossing, the number of patients permitted to leave has decreased sharply, and only 15-20 patients now leave Gazaeach day.

These data are consistent with the sharp increase in the number of patients contacting PHR-Israel because they aren't able to leave for treatment. Over the past four months, at least 120 patients have contacted PHR-Israel each month because their applications to leave Gazahave not been granted by Israel.

Regarding each application for assistance, PHR-Israel asks the Israeli army authorities to inform it of the applications' status. Since mid-May 2008, 90 percent of our inquiries have received the following responses from the army: "no application was submitted;" "under consideration;" or "irrelevant application" – responses which prevent PHR-Israel from intervening on behalf of the patients, since our intervention is only possible after a formal rejection has been received.

Thus, dozens of helpless patients confront a situation today in which, on the one hand, their applications are delayed and often not dealt with at all by the Israeli authorities, and on the other hand they are prevented from appealing the delay or the denial of medical attention.

Denial by the GSS of urgent treatment

The GSS continues its policy of denying Gaza patients life-saving medical treatment. PHR-Israel has information regarding 14 cases of patients in serious condition who need urgent and/or life-saving treatment, and have been prevented by the GSS from leaving Gaza. Among the cases are those of two blind brothers, aged 3 and 14, who were prevented by the GSS, for "security" reasons, from accessing treatment that might restore their eyesight, at IchilovHospitalin Tel Aviv (photograph attached).

Rafah Crossing: Insufficient redress

Egypt announced its intention of opening Rafah Crossing, the only point of passage from Gazathat is not controlled by Israel, to ill persons and humanitarian cases on July 3 and 4, 2008, inaccordance with an agreement it had reached with the government in Gaza. As part of the agreement, a coordinating mechanism was established between the two sides and arrangements were made for 72 patients to go to Egypt. In practice, however, the coordinating mechanism failed to operate. Beginning early in the morning on July 3, thousands of people, among them some 1,200 patients holding referrals from the Palestinian Ministry of Health for treatment in Egypt, massed at the crossing and created such pressure that it couldn't be opened during most of the day. In fact, the crossing was open for only a very short time, and only 22 patients managed to cross, of the 72 whose passage had been coordinated in advance. On July 4, 2008, the crossing was closed all day.

N., a 44 year-old resident of Gaza, suffers from a recurrence of cancer of the rectum. She was referred urgently in March, 2008, to IchilovHospitalin Tel Aviv, but the Israeli GSS refused to allow her to receive treatment in Israelfor "security" reasons. PHR-Israel appealed on her behalf to the Israeli High Court of Justice, but in a hearing held on 26.5.08 the appeal was rejected. The judges decided not to intervene in the decision of the GSS, preferring to rely on a promised "shuttle service" – intended to allow patients to pass through the Erez crossing to Jordan on a bus guarded by the Israeli army – as a solution for the patient. She waited more than two months for the shuttle service, but it was never implemented. Despairing of waiting longer for the shuttle to be organized, she appealed to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gazaand asked to receive a financial guarantee to cover treatment in Egypt. On July 2, 2008, when Rafah Crossing opened, she arrived accompanied by her husband, waited 10 hours, but didn't succeed in crossing to Egyptbecause of the thousands who jammed the crossing. N. slept at the crossing that night, together with her husband, hoping to leave the next day, but without success. At the end of the day on July 3, 2008, after waiting for almost 36 hours at Rafah Crossing, she was forced to return home.

The end of the shuttle option

In a hearing held this morning in the Israeli High Court of Justice, the State Attorney officially informed the Court that “shuttles” would no longer be used to take patients out of Gaza, due to the reluctance of the Jordanian government to comply with the necessary arrangements. The “shuttle” option, elusive from the start, was implemented a mere three times over the past 7 months. However, it was one of the reasons – or excuses – given by the Court until today for its decision not to uphold the request of patients to leave Gaza. PHR-Israel eagerly awaits the ruling of the Court on the matter of these patients, some of whom are in life-threatening condition.

A one-way ticket

A few dozen patients who want to return to their homes in Gaza are still stuck in Jordan after completing their medical treatment. These are patients who took the "shuttle" to receive medical treatment in Jordanin March, 2008, and have been there ever since. Israel demands they return in the same way they left, via the "shuttle" back to Gaza.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel asks that the government of Israel cease making declarations that it is alleviating the situation of the Palestinian population during the “lull”, and demands that it translates words into actions, according to the actual needs of the population.

ENDS

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