IOF Continues to Extort Patients and Use Crossings as Snares
Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights
The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) are continuing their policy of extorting patients and using the Gaza Strip’s border crossings, over which they exercise absolute control, to arrest Palestinians compelled by humanitarian needs to travel through them. Hence on Sunday, 8 July 2012, the IOF arrested a patient at Bayt Hanoun (Erez) crossing, after they had called him on a previous occasion for an interview and then subjected him to cruel and degrading treatment. After the second interview, the IOF informed the patient’s family via a telephone call late at night that they had detained him.
According to field information collected by Al Mezan, Israeli Occupation Forces stationed at the Bayt Hanoun crossing arrested the patient Wa’il Kamil Muhammad At-Taweel (40 years old) after he left his house heading for the crossing at around 8:00 a.m. on Sunday to attend an interview with the Israeli intelligence apparatus, with the aim of obtaining medical treatment abroad.
At-Taweel, a resident of the al-Jala’ area of Gaza City, suffers from cartilage slippage in the small of his back. According to field investigations, he received a referral from the Palestinian Directorate of Medical Services on 6 June 2012, and obtained an appointment for 5 July 2012 at Al Makassed Charitable Hospital in Jerusalem. He submitted an application to the Office of Health Coordination, which is responsible for arranging Gazan patients’ passage through Bayt Hanoun crossing, on 19 June 2012. On 5 July 2012 At-Taweel received a call from this office telling him to go to the crossing for an interview with Israeli intelligence. He went at roughly 8:00 am and returned home exhausted around 6:30 pm.
He told his wife that he had been subjected to a full search and interrogation at the crossing, during which he was struck in the face, had his hair pulled, and was held in an underground cell. At-Taweel stayed in his home Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, then on Sunday morning (8 July 2012) received a phone call from the Office of Health Coordination telling him to attend another interview with Israeli intelligence. He left his home for the crossing and did not return, according to his family. At around 10:00 pm they received a phone call informing them that the patient had been detained in Ashkelon prison.
The occupation authorities have continued this policy despite a campaign of international condemnation. Reports by the World Health Organization for the period 1 January 2012 – 30 May 2012 state that occupation authorities rejected applications for medical travel from 38 patients, including 14 women, and did not provide a timely response to 199 patients, including 89 women. The number of patients attending interviews with Israeli intelligence at Bayt Hanoun crossing came to 91, 53 of them men and 38 women.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights expresses its forceful condemnation of the detention of At-Taweel, a medical patient. The Center sees in this incident a continuation of Israel’s policy of extortion of Palestinian patients and exploitation of their medical suffering, in an abuse which makes clear the extent to which Israel exempts itself from its legal commitments under the rules of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Al Mezan demands that the occupation forces guarantee the patient’s medical treatment and charges them with full responsibility for his life. It likewise demands that the international community intervene immediately and effectively to halt Israel’s grave and systematic violations of the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights standards; to ensure the immediate access of patients and other residents of the Gaza Strip to healthcare and other humanitarian requirements; and to provide protection to Palestinian civilians abandoned under the occupation and the siege in the Gaza Strip and in the occupied Palestinian territory generally.