Cruel and senseless… Palestinian woman prevented from leaving Gaza to access cancer treatment

Published September 27th, 2016 - 02:48 GMT
Palestinian medical staff stand next to a patient as she speaks to the media, calling on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)
Palestinian medical staff stand next to a patient as she speaks to the media, calling on Egypt to open the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza Strip on November 6, 2014. (AFP/Said Khatib)

Israeli forces have prevented a Palestinian woman from leaving the blockaded Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing for a medical exam at Israel's Sheba Medical Center in Tel Hashomer, Tel Aviv.

According to statement from the Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PHCR) released Monday, 52-year old Nadia al-Bakri, a women's equality activist in Gaza, has been suffering from breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy, an operation, and radiation treatment at Sheba Medical Center in 2009.

Doctors recommended to al-Bakri that she travel to the hospital for periodic checkups, due to the fact that the medical equipment necessary for the exams are not found in hospitals in the besieged coastal enclave.

Despite Sheba Medical Center's doctors having scheduled several critical medical appointments due to a deterioration in al-Bakri's health, Israeli forces have continued to prevent her from leaving the Gaza Strip.

The last time al-Bakri was allowed to reach the hospital for a medical checkup was Dec. 27, 2015, according to PCHR. Her most recent appointment was scheduled for Sep. 20.

Israel officials did not reply to a request for comment on the issue, however, a report by Israeli newspaper Haaretz in July said that an official from Israel's internal security agency, the Shin Bet, told al-Bakri that she did not meet the criteria for "urgent humanitarian and lifesaving cases," and evaded her question when she asked if she was a "security threat" to Israel.

Al-Bakri is a local activist, the Director of the Women's Affairs Center in Gaza, and a board member of PCHR.

PHCR said in their statement that "the continued Israeli policy to prevent patients from travelling to receive medical treatment is a flagrant violation of the international humanitarian law, especially as this policy falls within the continued illegal closure imposed on the Gaza Strip that increases the suffering of Palestinian patients, who need advanced medical treatment that is not available in Gaza hospitals."

"Al-Bakri's case is similar to the cases of all Palestinian patients in the Gaza Strip, who receive advanced medical treatment in hospitals of the West Bank and Israel.

"Israeli forces make use of Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing by blackmailing the Palestinian patients and individuals to allow them to pass via the crossing."

Erez is the sole crossing open for pedestrian travel between the Gaza Strip and Israel, and an Israeli military blockade imposed on the territory for nearly a decade severely restricts Palestinian movement through the border.

Seeking medical treatment in Gaza -- where nearly 20 hospitals and 60 primary healthcare facilities were damaged or destroyed by Israeli forces during the 2014 war -- is difficult, as Israel's blockade limits medical equipment allowed into the Gaza Strip and restricts travel for those seeking medical training.

Many of Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinian residents are as a result forced to either go without care or find a way to access treatment provided outside of the Palestinian territory.

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