Israel Proposes Gaza Cancer Patients Be Treated in West Bank, Where Treatment Is Unavailable

The procedures needed by six women in Gaza are not done in the West Bank, but only in East Jerusalem, where Israel won’t let them go

Amira Hass
Amira Hass
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A sick Palestinian child is held by his mother inside a room at the Durra hospital in Gaza City, February 6, 2018.
A sick Palestinian child is held by his mother inside a room at the Durra hospital in Gaza City, February 6, 2018. Credit: REUTERS/Mohammed Salem
Amira Hass
Amira Hass

The state is willing to allow six women cancer patients to leave the Gaza Strip for the West Bank for treatment that is not available in the West Bank, or to go abroad for treatment they cannot afford. However, it will not allow the women, who are severely ill, to go to either of two Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem which can treat them.

The state prosecutor’s office informed the NGO Gisha of its decision in a letter, referring to a High Court of Justice petition seeking to overturn the ban on seven women patients leaving the Gaza Strip because they are first degree relatives of Hamas members.

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One of the seven women who petitioned the High Court is not a relative of a Hamas member, and she was told she can resubmit her request for an exit permit, according to the District Coordination and Liaison office.

Attorney Arin Safdi-Atilla of the State Prosecutor’s Office wrote Gisha that her office had been informed that “it had been decided to permit the entrance of the petitioners to Israel only for the purpose of passage from there to receive medical treatment in the West Bank or abroad.” Gisha’s attorneys, Muna Haddad and Sigi Ben-Ari, responded Monday to the state’s proposal that it meant “continued prevention of essential and very urgent medical care to save the lives” of the petitioners.

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The seven Palestinian women have been waiting for between three and six months for a response to their exit applications. In May and June, the District Coordination and Liaison Office informed the women that they could not leave the Strip because they were related to Hamas members. Four of the women were referred by the Palestinian Authority for radiation treatments and chemotherapy at Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem (one of them is the woman who has now been told she is not a relative of a Hamas member), and three others were referred to Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem for complicated surgery to remove tumors from their skull.

Because the treatments the women need are not available in West Bank hospitals the Palestinian Health Ministry refers West Bank residents requiring such treatments to East Jerusalem hospitals. The PA funds these treatments, but not treatments abroad if there is an alternative in the Palestinian healthcare system.

The criterion of family relationship to a Hamas member as an official reason to prevent patients leaving the Gaza Strip for treatment is relatively new. It was added in response to a demand by the family of Hadar Goldin, who was killed in the 2014 Gaza war and whose remains are still being held by Hamas. In January 2017 the security cabinet voted to cut the number of humanitarian exit permits to Hamas members and their relatives as one way of pressuring the organization to release two Israeli civilians who entered the Gaza Strip years agoand to return the bodies of the soldiers killed, Goldin and Shaul Oron. Implementation of the cabinet decision began only at the end of 2017 after the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (to which the District Liaison Office belongs) obtained information from the Shin Bet security service that it did not previously have, COGAT said.

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