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Israel Delays Five Cancer Patients In Gaza From Receiving Medical Treatment

By Dima Abumaria | The Media Line

October 19, 2017

Photo: Getty Images
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Women in critical condition need to leave the Strip

Israeli authorities have delayed issuing medical permits to five female cancer patients from Gaza that would enable them to seek treatment in Israel. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) revealed in a press release that the women are in critical condition and need to exit the Strip to receive lifesaving treatment unavailable there.

Gazans reached out to PHR-I for help, which, in turn, submitted an urgent request to the Israeli government. Some of the patients have nevertheless been waiting for over six months, with the Israeli body responsible for granting the necessary permission having confirmed that the applications remain “under review.”

Speaking to The Media Line, Ran Yaron, the spokesperson of PHR-I, explained that the organization is applying pressure on Jerusalem . “We sent Aida Touma-Suleiman, an [Arab-Israeli parliamentarian] a letter to help with the permits and she promised to contact the Israeli security minister.” As the only human rights organization that is allowed to cross into Gaza through Israel’s Erez border crossing, PHR-I has in the past found itself in similar situations and works tirelessly to help Gazans who are ill.

Yaron called the current situation “the story of his life.”

The Media Line succeeded in contacting one of the patients, Sana’ al-Siri, 51, who has breast cancer. The mother of five, who lost two of her sons in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, explained that she urgently needs a type of radiation treatment that is unavailable in Gaza. “I underwent a mastectomy in the European-funded hospital in Khan Younis and was meant to receive follow-up treatment two months later at the most. I have been waiting for six months now, and still no permit,” she asserted.

Al-Siri says her application to enter Israel has been denied four times, most recently three weeks ago. “It is my right as a human being to receive medical treatment when needed. Egypt is closing the Rafah border crossing point and Israel too. I don’t know what to do.

“I am really sick but there are even worse cases in the strip,” she concluded.

Every month, hundreds of Gazans miss their medical appointments in Israel, Jordan or the West Bank because of delays in receiving permits. According to the World Health Organization and PHR-I, in August 2017 alone more than one thousand Gazans missed their scheduled treatments abroad.

When reached by The Media Line, a spokesperson for the Israeli Ministry of Health stressed that Israel regularly treats Palestinian patients, but said that the body was not responsible for issuing permits.

For its part, The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT)—the Israeli body that oversees civilian aspects in the West Bank—told The Media Line that in 2017 more than thirteen thousand crossings were coordinated from Gaza into Israel for medical treatment purposes. In addition, ambulances are made available for the urgent transfer of patients and their families on a daily basis. COGAT highlighted that “due to Hamas attempts to take advantage of the civil steps for terror purposes, there is a need for security checks to ensure that their entry is not a security risk.” In this respect, it noted an occurrence last April in which two sisters who received licenses for medical treatment in Israel were caught carrying explosives.

Marwa Ghalban, 29, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, requires treatment at Israel’s Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center—but her application for a medical permit has been under review for seven months. Ghalban’s husband told The Media Line that his wife is in critical condition. “Daily life is a struggle,” he asserted, “as she doesn’t have energy for her kids, house or anything. My wife has an appointment on November 5th, but has yet to obtain a permit to go.”

Mohammed, a father of six who works as a taxi driver in Gaza expressed his anger to The Media Line. “We don’t have a security ban, we traveled to Israel before. I don’t know why this is happening to us—is this our destiny?”

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