Two Babies Die in Gaza After Palestinian Authority Denies Treatment in Israel

Inter-Palestinian conflict prevents infants born with life-threatening conditions from receiving the necessary treatment in Israel

A Palestinian woman praying next to the grave of a relative on the first day of Id al-Fitr prayers, at a cemetery in Gaza City June 25, 2017.
IBRAHEEM ABU MUSTAFA/REUTERS

Two babies born with life-threatening conditions died in Gaza this week after they didn’t receive permission from the Palestinian Authority to get medical treatment in Israel, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

The PA did not respond to the report, but did not deny it either.

Mus’ab Balal al-Ara’eer, a week-old infant, died in Shifa Hospital, Gaza City, on Monday. He was born with heart problems and other disabilities.

Dr. Allam Abu Hamda, head of the neonatal care unit at Shifa, said that because of his many problems, Ara’eer needed to be transferred immediately to a hospital in Israel. The infant’s family filed a request with the PA Health Ministry in Ramallah, in order to receive the financial commitment required for such treatment, but never received an answer.

Abu Hamda said he did not know to what extent it was possible to save Ara’eer but that, given his condition, no medical center in Gaza or the West Bank would have been able to treat such a severe and complex case.

On Tuesday morning, another week-old baby died in Shifa Hospital. Bara Mohammad Raban was born with a heart defect and also needed treatment in an Israeli hospital.

Abu Hamda warned that other infants who need immediate medical treatment are also at risk.

“What is going on is a crime according to all the parameters, and the international community and human rights organizations must intervene immediately to stop this behavior,” he said.

Dr. Ashraf al-Qudra, a spokesman for the Health Ministry in Gaza, released a statement Monday saying there were a number of urgent medical cases that required treatment in hospitals outside of the Gaza Strip.

Since the beginning of 2017, nine patients have died in Gaza, including three children, because of delays in receiving permission for treatment from the PA in Ramallah, Qudra said.

“Who is supposed to bear responsibility for those sick people?” he asked. “Why is the world silent, and why is there this apathy toward patients as if no one cares about their lives?”

Residents of Gaza say the PA has recently prevented patients from leaving the Strip for treatment in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan, as part of its dispute with the Hamas government in Gaza. Data from the nongovernmental organization Physicians for Human Rights support those claims.

Gazans told Haaretz that the Health Ministry in Ramallah has been delaying the financial commitment for such treatments for the past two months.

Treatments for about 300 patients – out of 3,500 requests – were approved in May, while the Health Ministry in Ramallah issued 2,040 such permits per month on average last year, the NGO said. The PA is preventing some 1,600 Gazans from receiving treatment that is not available in Gaza, including cancer patients and children, it added.

The financial commitment forms issued by the PA are the main way that Gazans are able to receive entry permits into Israel for medical treatment, and are required in nearly all cases.

Humanitarian programs do exist that provide funding and entry into Israel for medical treatment, but they cover only a small number of patients.

The Health Ministry in Ramallah denies altering its policy concerning Gazan patients, saying no change has been made in the number of financial commitments it grants them.