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Infant Dies as Israel Prevents Him from Leaving Gaza Strip to Undergo Medical Treatment in East Jerusalem – Al Mezan Calls for Immediate Lifting of the Siege on Gaza
At around 7.30am on 3 June 2009, seven-month-old Zein Ad-Din Mohammed Zu’rob died in the intensive care unit at European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis. Medical sources at the hospital reported to Al Mezan that he died as a result of respiratory system and heart failure. According to Al Mezan investigations, Zein’s family obtained a medical referral for him to undergo medical treatment at Al-Maqasid Charity Hospital in East Jerusalem for 30 days starting from 18 May 2009.
On 20 May 2009, Zein’s family went to Al Mezan’s office in Rafah where they authorized Al Mezan to pursue the case and assist with efforts to secure a permit for the child and his family to travel to Jerusalem. The Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) did not respond to the requests made regarding this matter until 3 June 2009.
Medical reports show that Zein was suffering from a severe lung infection which resulted in bronchial asthma and general weakness in his growth. Doctors at European Gaza Hospital said that the main cause of the deterioration in the child’s condition was an infection with a pancreatic cyst. They explained that hospitals in the Gaza Strip do not have the ability to conduct the necessary tests and that he was therefore referred to Al-Maqasid hospital in Jerusalem for tests and treatment.
Al Mezan Center has followed up this case with the victim’s family in cooperation with Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I), which contacted the Israeli District Coordination Office (IDCO) at Erez Crossing. The IDCO’s answer was that they had not received an application for permission for the child to cross Erez to Jerusalem. Al Mezan Center contacted the Palestinian District Coordination Office staff in Gaza, who reported that they had sent an application for the child on 25 May 2009.
This is indicative of the serious problem of the complex bureaucracy faced by Gazans who need to leave Gaza seeking healthcare in Israel or the West Bank. They have to leave Gaza via Erez Crossing. Only severe cases who suffer from conditions that are incurable in Gaza are allowed to apply for permission. Nevertheless, the application and processing of their request take long times and lack an effective follow-up mechanism. Many patients die while waiting for a response to their requests for permission to exit Gaza.
According to Al Mezan’s monitoring, many of the sick persons who applied for permits to leave the Gaza Strip through Erez crossing were informed that they had not applied, even though the Palestinian Liaison Office had sent the applications days or weeks previously. Patients therefore have to wait even longer to receive a response, change their appointment at the hospital outside of Gaza, and then apply again for a permit thereby losing precious time waiting for a response which may be positive or negative. Al Mezan documentation also demonstrates that the receipt of a permit to exit Gaza through Erez crossing does not necessarily mean that patients will be allowed to leave. The IOF obstructs many patients who have been issued with permits, searching and interrogating them, and exploiting their need to travel for reasons of ill-health to pressurize them into collaborating and provi ding information about the activities of the resistance in the Gaza Strip. Many Palestinian patients have died after being ordered by the IOF to return to the Gaza Strip after refusing to collaborate.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns in the strongest possible terms Israel’s siege on the Gaza Strip and its prevention of Palestinians from travelling to undergo medical treatment which is unavailable in Gaza. Al Mezan holds Israel responsible for the deaths of over 35 sick persons in the Gaza Strip who died as a result of Israel’s refusal to allow them to leave Gaza, and dozens of other persons who have died in Gaza’s hospitals as a result of the blockade, closures, the lack of treatment, and the lack of electricity and fuel.
Al Mezan asserts that Israel, as the Occupying Power in effective control of the Gaza Strip and its crossings, bears legal responsibility to ensure that Gaza residents can access adequate medical care, in a time which enables them to receive appropriate treatment without delay.
Further, Israel has a clear responsibility toward the population of the Gaza Strip to enjoy their fundamental right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health in accordance with its obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. This obligation includes ensuring the availability of appropriate healthcare and the ability of each individual to access it.