Israel Has Blocked Gazans From Entering for Cancer Treatment Since Flare-up Began

Israel preventing entry of patients requiring chemotherapy that is unavailable in Gaza, in a move human rights group call decision 'extremely unreasonable'

הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf
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The Erez Crossing on the Gaza border, last year.
The Erez Crossing on the Gaza border, last year.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
הגר שיזף
Hagar Shezaf

Since the last round of fighting in the Gaza Strip broke out, Israel has denied entrance to Palestinians with cancer through the Erez checkpoint, despite announcing last week that it would allow such travel in life-threatening cases. Israel is thereby preventing the entry of cancer patients requiring chemotherapy that is available only in Israel and not in Gaza.

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During the fighting in Gaza and up to last Tuesday, the Erez border crossing was completely closed. After it reopened, Israel announced that it would allow the entry of people needing life-saving treatment. In a statement Monday, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories reiterated that Gazan patients in need of life-saving medical care can enter the country. 

Despite this, according to reports reaching Physicians for Human Rights – Israel and the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Mezan, Israel is only allowing the entry of people needing to reach intensive care units by ambulance, other than a few isolated cases in which it agreed to let people through following the intervention of the Palestinian Authority and other organizations.

One of the patients denied entry was Souad (her real name withheld at her request), a cancer patient from Gaza City. Souad is seriously ill and has a long-range permit allowing her multiple entries so that she can be treated at the Augusta Victoria hospital in East Jerusalem. Her treatment includes chemotherapy. Souad came to the Erez crossing Tuesday on her way to receiving treatment, but was denied entry. On Sunday she tried again but was refused entry yet again.

“My wife is gravely ill with cancer and her situation is deteriorating,” her husband told Haaretz. “The first time we came we waited three hours, after which we were told we could not proceed. On Sunday, they refused us entry again. My wife has a biological and chemotherapeutic treatment protocol for her cancer and every delay aggravates her situation,” he said.

Souad began her treatment last December and has been crossing into Israel frequently since then.

Human rights organizations including Physicians for Human Rights, Gisha, Adallah and the HaMoked Center for Defense of the Individual appealed last Wednesday, through attorney Adi Lustigman, to the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories and to Defense Minister Benny Gantz, calling the decision to deny entry to these patients an “extremely unreasonable” one, in the absence of an examination of individual cases and the provision of detailed explanations when entry is denied. No reply has been offered so far.

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