Israeli closure claims cancer victim

Relatives of Na’el al-Kordi sit in the family house after his funeral in Gaza City, 17November 2007. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

PCHR strongly condemns Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) for continuing to deny Palestinians in Gaza access to medical care outside the strip through the prevention of passage or delay in movement, placing at risk the lives of dozens of critically ill patients. The latest victim of this IOF policy, who died yesterday, was a cancer patient from Gaza City who was not able to reach Egyptian hospitals due to the closure of Rafah Crossing or Israeli hospitals due to IOF’s ban on his passage through Beit Hanoun “Erez” checkpoint.

The Center’s preliminary investigation indicates that on the morning of Saturday, 17 November 2007, Na’el Abd al-Rahman Khamis al-Kordi (21), from Sheikh Radwan Quarter in Gaza City, died when his health condition deteriorated after IOF banned him from obtaining a permit for treatment in an Israeli hospital. The victim’s brother, Rami, stated that his brother was diagnosed with cancer about a year and half ago. At the time, the family applied for a permit to treat Na’el in an Israeli hospital. However, the request was denied and the family took him to an Egyptian hospital for treatment. He returned to Gaza, but was due for a follow-up appointment in Egypt in June 2007. The closure of Rafah Crossing since 15 June 2007 prevented him from traveling for the appointment. His condition deteriorated due to the lack of availability of treatment in the Gaza Strip. The family made three attempts to obtain a permit for Na’el to be treated inside Israel. However, IOF rejected all applications. The last attempt was on 31 October 2007 through the Liaison Office in the Ministry of Health. ©decins Sans Frontières intervened to secure the permit but the family did not receive a reply. The victim’s condition continued to deteriorate during the waiting period till he died Saturday morning.

Al-Kordi’s death brings to nine the number of Palestinian patients who have died since last August as a result of denial of access to healthcare facilities outside the Gaza Strip. The victims include two women and a six-month-old infant.

IOF continue to adopt complex measures against Palestinian patients who were allowed to enter for treatment in Israeli hospitals. For example, IOF prevented the transport of the body of Mohammad Ahmad Bader (67) who died in an Israeli hospital where he was treated after suffering a seizure. The patient died on 13 November 2007, but the body was not allowed back in Gaza until 16 November 2007.

The IOF policy of denying Palestinians access to healthcare facilities by banning their movement or delaying them at checkpoints makes them directly responsible for the lives of dozens of patients.

PCHR condemns denying Na’el al-Kordi the right to access adequate healthcare, which resulted in his death. The Centre calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to pressure IOF to respect international humanitarian law, and to cease the policy of collective punishment against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip. The Centre calls upon these parties to work to ensure that Palestinain patients have free and timely access to healthcare facilities outside the Gaza Strip.

This press release was edited for clarity.

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