Critically ill patients from Gaza appeal to Israeli court

A Palestinian man lies in hospital. (Tom Spender/IRIN)

JERUSALEM, 22 May (IRIN) - Ahmed al-Baghdadi’s doctors said he must leave the Gaza Strip and travel to Israel to receive urgent life-saving medical care if he hopes to fight the tumours in his body. Rada al-Khadir, aged 22, needs to get treatment immediately, her Israeli doctor said, or her liver disease could prove fatal.

Both patients have been denied permission to leave by the Israeli military. On 20 May — along with 11 other Palestinians from the Gaza Strip in need of immediate medical care in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan — they filed separate petitions to the Israeli high court, asking that they be allowed to leave the enclave and go to the relevant hospitals.

In an affidavit obtained by Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR), Baghdadi said his egress was made conditional on his willingness to collaborate with the Israeli General Security Services (GSS).

“If you want to reach the hospital, take my mobile phone number, talk to me and give me information on people,” he was allegedly told by a member of the GSS, who allegedly also offered him a sum of money.

Baghdadi said he was so desperate to receive treatment that he even slipped into Egypt illegally at one point, when the border was blown open, but got caught and was sent back to Gaza before he was able to get the full care he needed there.

The Israeli GSS has denied it makes the entrance of patients to Israel conditional on their willingness to collaborate.

Rafah versus Erez crossings

With the southern Rafah crossing to Egypt still generally closed since last June, having been opened for only a few days in recent months for patients, the northern Erez crossing, controlled by Israel, remains the only way out for nearly all people in need of medical care.

In what was an apparent gesture by Egypt to Hamas, which controls Gaza and is currently in talks on a ceasefire with Israel, on 10 May Rafah was opened for patients, but Khadir, though she tried and waited at the border, was unable to pass through.

She was denied entrance to Israel through Erez on “security grounds,” although the authorities had said there would be a bus that could take her to points outside the Jewish state for treatment. However, since she was denied permission, no bus has been arranged, PHR said, adding that the last shuttle was in March.

The Israel Medical Association issued a statement several weeks ago asking that cancer patients in need of life-saving treatment be allowed to enter Israel.

At the beginning of last month, the World Health Organization released a report saying 32 Gazans had died while awaiting a permit to leave Gaza or after having been denied permission to exit. Officials say the number has since risen.

“Preventing those patients from getting urgent and life-saving medical care is physical torture that causes prolonged suffering,” said Dani Filk, a medic and the PHR chairman.

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