Israel's policy of bringing pressure to bear on Hamas by denying Gazan male and female patients permission to travel out of the Gaza Strip for medical treatment, even in life-threatening situations, has occasioned many requests seeking our help in getting those patients out for treatment.
Our pleas having remained unanswered, on 29 July 2018 we petitioned the High Court of Justice - together with three other organizations: Al Mezan, Gisha and Adalah - to have it overturn the Cabinet's decision to categorically deny patients passage, and to have it instruct that seven female patients recently refused passage due to family ties to Hamas be immediately allowed to leave the Gaza Strip for medical treatment.
A hearing took place in the High Court of Justice on 20 August 2018. In its reply, the State said that it would not allow Gazan patients to enter its territory to receive treatment, be it even life-saving treatment. The State added that it would make an exception to this sweeping prohibition for minors under 16 and also allow patients above that age passage through Israel on their way to the West Bank or abroad. According to the State Attorney, the purpose of this decision is to put pressure on Hamas by heaping obstacles making it hard for patients to leave for medical treatment.
The State likewise admits to being aware that some life-saving treatments are not available in West-Bank hospitals, but only in hospitals in East Jerusalem; still, it will not allow hospitalizations in the latter too, since Israel considers this annexed territory to be part of its own. In its reply, the State of Israel is shirking all responsibility for the fate of these male and female patients, for whom treatment abroad is obviously not something they can afford or which the Palestinian Authority's healthcare system can cover. This policy constitutes cruel collective punishment, which comes on top of the destruction of the civil and healthcare infrastructure in the Gaza Strip after many years of closure.
There are many options available to Israel to negotiate with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority without having to resort to these harsh measures. If the High Court of Justice sanctions the State's reply, this will eliminate the possibility for patients above the age of 16 to access available and appropriate life-saving treatment for their disease. For the sake of putting pressure on the Hamas rule, Israel is taking advantage of one of the weakest populations, male and female patients who are fighting daily to stay alive.
Freedom of Movement Coordinator
Physicians for Human Rights Israel (PHRI)