Physicians for Human Rights in Israel release a statement about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza:
The army must accept patients’ referral applications and facilitate their exit from Gaza to receive medical treatment:
– 10 patients from the Gaza Strip have died since the collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian coordination mechanism
– Israel refuses to deal with dozens of referrals of Gaza patients it has received from organizations that form a temporary alternative arrangement to the collapsed coordination mechanism.
The Israeli army, by way of the Gaza DCO, refuses to deal with dozens of referrals to medical treatment outside of Gaza that Physicians for Human Rights-Israel had submitted even though the Palestinian coordination mechanism has stopped functioning. In so doing, the DCO prevents many patients from receiving adequate, at times, life-saving, medical treatment. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza has documented ten cases in which the circumstances that brought about a patient’s death were directly related to the collapse of the coordinating mechanism. The World Health Organization, (WHO) confirmed eight of the ten cases.
The coordination mechanism that worked to refer patients to external medical treatment from Gaza, and worked in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, effectively stopped operating on March 22 when the Hamas Government dissolved the referral office, and replaced its workers, among them the Palestinian coordinator Mr. Rif’at Muhesen with new officials. As a result, Israel immediately stopped its cooperation with the new coordination office.
International organizations like the World Health Organization and the PCRS announced they would not serve as an alternative to either committee – the previous or the new one – and will not submit individual requests on behalf of patients to the Israeli authorities. They therefore do not offer a temporary alternative address to the patients of Gaza.
PHR-Israel that usually operates as an appeal instance in cases of prevention of medical treatment is obliged, under these circumstances, to function as the only body that receives applications for referrals from patients. In the last four weeks more than 120 written requests were delivered by PHR-Israel to the Israeli DCO on behalf of patients in need of medical treatment outside of Gaza. These patients already held all the required documents and the only obstacle preventing them from reaching the medical treatment they needed was an exit permit from the Israeli authorities. The army refuses to deal with most of the appeals submitted by PHR-Israel.
The army is actively preventing medical treatment from patients:
– By refusing to acknowledge the existence of a new coordinating mechanism in Gaza, and by refusing to deal with it.
– By refusing to process the dozens of applications referred to it by PHR-Israel, arguing the former coordination committee will soon be reinstated, though it is evident this is not happening.
– By referring patients to Mr Husein al-Sheikh the person appointed by the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah to chair the former Civil Committee. The army claims this committee is referring patients from Gaza while in practice, the representatives of this very committee, in Gaza and Ramallah have repeatedly stated they were not referring patients’ applications.
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel addressed the army in a letter on April 8 demanding it to process the applications on behalf of patients that are referred to it by PHR- Israel and other organizations. To date, we did not receive any reply and the army’s policies persist.
In its conduct, Israel is making the patients of Gaza into hostages in political power struggles that have no relevance to their medical situation. Israel is using these patients and their vulnerable condition to advance political interests. Until the inter-Palestinian political struggles are resolved, and until the reinstatement of a functioning Civil Committee accepted by all parties, PHR-Israel calls on the State of Israel to accept patients’ referral applications and enable them to exit Gaza to receive medical treatment.