Attorney General Seeks to Soften Israel's Policy on Medical Treatment for Gazans

Defense chief opposes easing restrictions until the issue Israeli prisoners and missing persons is resolved

Palestinian employees of the al-Deira hotel carry a wounded boy following an Israeli strike nearby on the beach, Gaza City, July 16, 2014.
AFP

Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is seeking to reverse the government’s refusal to enable seriously ill Gazans to leave the Strip for treatment in the West Bank, or abroad, if they have a first-degree family relationship with a Hamas operative.

Mendelblit has also asked Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and the Israel Defense Forces to draw up an exceptions list specifying cases in which patients will be allowed to leave Gaza to receive lifesaving treatment in Israel. In contrast to Lieberman, Mendelblit wants the list of those allowed passage to include Gazans who were wounded by gunfire during demonstrations and need immediate treatment.

At the beginning of the year the government decided to ban entrance of Gaza residents who are involved in Hamas activity, as well as Hamas operatives’ first-degree relatives, except in cases where lifesaving treatment was needed. The decision was made in response to a petition by the family of Hadar Goldin, a soldier whose remains are being held by Hamas, regarding the granting of entrance permits to Gazans for humanitarian reasons.

In practice, the defense establishment has had a hard time determining who is connected to Hamas operatives, particularly in the cases of minors. Earlier this month it was reported that since the beginning of the year, 769 ill Gazans had been denied entry for medical treatment on grounds they had Hamas ties, compared to only 21 refusals on these grounds during all of 2017.

Recently Mendelblit contacted the Defense Ministry and asked for clarifications on the matter. Petitions have been filed with the High Court of Justice against the refusal to allow minors from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel for life-saving treatment, and Mendelblit is having difficulty defending the defense establishment’s stance in court.

In discussions with Lieberman, Mendelblit asked to allow Gazans entrance into Israel so they could go seek treatment in the West Bank or abroad, and also asked Defense Ministry and IDF officials to make a list of those exceptional cases in which patients could even be treated in Israel.

In addition, Mendelblit wants to allow patients who were shot during demonstrations near the Gaza border to be included among those who can transit through Israel for treatment. Since the end of March, several thousands of demonstrators have been wounded by IDF sharpshooters, some sustaining wounds to their limbs that could lead to amputation. Lieberman objects to their inclusion, however, arguing that limb injuries are not life-threatening.

In a recent High Court hearing on a petition demanding passage for a minor who had lost a leg and sought to go to the West Bank for treatment to save his other one, the justices ordered that he be allowed in. Following that, Mendelblit instructed that all such wounded Gazans, particularly minors, be allowed in. However, the pace at which permits are being granted hasn’t allowed the entry of many patients.

The defense minister’s office issued a statement saying, “The defense minister is implementing the policy of the security cabinet, which decided to block the entrance of Hamas men or their families to Israel for medical treatment, subject to legal restrictions, until the issue of the prisoners and missing persons is resolved.”