Woman dies after being denied medical treatment

On Saturday morning, 24 November 2007, a Palestinian patient from the Gaza Strip died as Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) refused to grant her permission to enter Israel to receive medical treatment at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) strongly condemns measures taken by IOF violating Palestinians’ right to health, and denying them access to hospitals outside the Gaza Strip. PCHR also demands IOF to allow Rowaida ‘Omar Shakshak, who is in a serious health condition, to receive urgent medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip.

According to information available to PCHR, on Saturday morning, 24 November 2007, Muna Fayez ‘Ali Noufal, a mother of seven children from Nussairat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, died as her health condition deteriorated after IOF had denied her access to medical treatment at an Israeli hospital.

According to the victim’s husband, Wa’el Noufal ‘Ali Noufal, his wife had been suffering from cancer in the colon. She had received medical treatment at Nasser Institute Hospital in Egypt. She came back to the Gaza Strip from the last round of medical treatment in Egypt on 9 May 2007, deciding to continue medical treatment, which included three sessions of chemotherapy, at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. However, doctors at Shifa Hospital informed her that chemotherapy was not available at the hospital and decided to transfer her again to Egypt. She had not been able to travel to Egypt due to the closure of Rafah International Crossing Point since 11 June 2007. On 27 August 2007, she was transferred to Ichilov Hospital in Israel, where she underwent the first session of chemotherapy. She had stayed at the hospital for two weeks. She was supposed to travel to the hospital again for the second session of treatment in two weeks, but IOF delayed issuing permission for her. On 7 October 2007, IOF allowed her to travel to Ichilov Hospital to undergo the second session of chemotherapy. She had stayed at the hospital for 18 days.

IOF again refused to grant her permission to travel to Israel to undergo the third session of chemotherapy, which was supposed to take place in the first week of this month. IOF refused four applications for permission to be granted to her submitted on 4, 12, 18 and 22 November 2007. The Palestinian Ministry of Health used to inform her that IOF had not responded to her applications for permits. She died on Saturday, 24 November 2007, as her health conditions deteriorated.

The woman’s death brings to 11 the number of Gaza patients who died since last August as a result of denying them medical rights. The victims include three women and an infant.

Furthermore, health conditions of patients in the Gaza Strip have deteriorated due to the lack of appropriate medical treatment in the Gaza Strip and the denial of their travel abroad to receive medical treatment. According to medical sources at the Gaza European Hospital in Khan Yunis, Rowaida ‘Omar Shakshak, 54, from Rafah, is in a coma. Her health condition has deteriorated as she suffers from diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis. She is badly in need for advanced medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip. According to her son, ‘Abdullah ‘Omar Shakshak, 31, the Palestinian Ministry of Health sent reports about her condition to several Israeli hospitals, but they refused to admit her. He added that he sent medical reports to Egyptian hospitals, which expressed willingness to treat her. However, she cannot travel to Egypt due to the continued closure of Rafah International Crossing Point.

PCHR condemns the denial of Noufal’s access to medical treatment, which led to her death, and:

1. Calls upon the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to pressure IOF to respect international humanitarian law, and to cease their policy of collective punishment against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip.

2. Calls upon High Contracting Parties to work to ensure that Palestinian patients have free and timely access to healthcare facilities outside the Gaza Strip.

3. Calls upon international organizations working in the Occupied Palestinian Territory to act against this policy of collective punishment practiced against the civilian population of the Gaza Strip, and to act to stop the deterioration of the humanitarian and health situation by ensuring the safe and timely passage of food and medicines so as to protect the lives of the civilian population of the Strip.

4. Stresses that depriving Palestinian patients of their right to receive medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip due to restrictions imposed by IOF on their freedom of movement makes IOF responsible for the lives of dozens of Palestinian patients who are badly in need for advanced medical treatment, which is not available in the Gaza Strip.

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