Human Rights Group Blames Israel for Boy’s Death After He Was Unable to Exit Gaza

Farouk Abu Naja, 6, died last week after being prevented from attending two medical appointments in Jerusalem. Al Mezan says he is the third Gazan child to die this year after being denied access to medical treatment in Israel

Jonathan Shamir
Jonathan Shamir
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Israeli soldiers closing a security fence on the Israel-Gaza border in southern Israel last month.Credit: Tsafrir Abayov/AP
Jonathan Shamir
Jonathan Shamir

A Palestinian human rights organization has blamed Israel for the death of a young Gazan boy, after he was blocked from leaving the Strip to access medical treatment in Jerusalem.

Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, which represents the family, said 6-year-old Farouk Abu Naja – who suffered from development regression – had two appointments scheduled at Hadassah Medical Center, Jerusalem, on January 12 and August 10. However, he was unable to attend either as his exit permits remained “under review” by Israeli authorities.

He died on August 24 after a serious deterioration in his condition.

The organization blamed Abu Naja’s death on “Israel’s draconian, stifling closure of Gaza,” which “denies inhabitants their fundamental right to health, and other inalienable rights, as part of an entrenched system of oppression, domination and discrimination against the Palestinian people.”

Al Mezan said Abu Naja was the third child and the fourth Gazan to die this year due to denial of medical treatment in Israel.

A spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Ministry’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) expressed “regret” over the death, explaining that it could not find an appointment in January.

COGAT said the application received on December 22 did not contain “any medical documents whatsoever, which are required for evaluating the application. The CLA [Coordination and Liaison Administration] contacted the Palestinian Civil Committee to provide the required medical documents, but these were not provided for several months.”

Farouk Abu Naja, who died age 6 on August 24.Credit: Courtesy of Al Mezan

However, documents from the lawyer working on the case, Yehya Mohareb, confirmed that Abu Naja had an appointment on January 12 and received an official diagnosis from Gaza’s Health Ministry prior to the application. The lawyer said that both documents were submitted to the authorities.

The second application received on July 20 was “forwarded to the security authorities” to check his mother’s request to accompany Abu Naja, but COGAT said it did not receive a response before the date of the appointment and therefore “her request for a permit was not approved.”

COGAT also stated that the child’s father “has in recent months been in possession of a trade permit for Israel – which could have served him to accompany his son for the tests and medical treatment in Israel.”

Regardless, the lawyer said the boy himself was not granted a permit, and that his grandmother submitted a request for a companion permit as backup, but that was also left “under review.”

COGAT has yet to respond to a follow-up question on the matter.

COGAT added that an inquiry with the hospital had found that Abu Naja also had appointments scheduled in November 2021 and April 2022, but the authorities “did not receive an entry application” for those dates.

In May, prominent Israeli and Palestinian groups issued a report accusing COGAT of refusing to answer inquiries on behalf of Gaza residents since the start of the year, instead redirecting the inquiries to the largely administrative Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee.

“As a result, Palestinians in Gaza are facing even longer delays than before in receiving responses to their permit applications, even in patently humanitarian cases, at great risk to lives and in violation of fundamental rights,” Gisha, Al Mezan and Physicians for Human Rights wrote.

Israel introduced the permit system for the Gaza Strip in 1991 and, alongside Egypt, has maintained a near-comprehensive blockade of the coastal enclave and its 2 million residents since the military group Hamas consolidated its control of the Strip in 2007.

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