Palestinian Child Dies As Israel Denies Access To Hospital Outside Gaza

Israel has denied years of medical treatment to Palestinians with the latest case being that of Fatma Jalal al Masri, a 19-month-old who has died this month after being denied access to a hospital outside Gaza by Israeli authorities, according to sources at the European hospital in Gaza.

Fatma was diagnosed with a ventricular septal defect in 2021 and, although she had a medical referral from the Palestinian Ministry of Health and confirmed three hospital appointments at Al Makassed Hospital in Jerusalem, Israeli authorities denied Fatma the requisite exit permit to travel to Jerusalem for the appointments, according to Al Mezan Center for Human Rights.

The last appointment should have been on March 5, but since she was denied access to it her health deteriorated and she died three weeks after.

Systemic denial

Israel’s permit system delays access to hospitals outside the Strip and around 30% of urgent cases. The restrictions on the movement of Palestinians expand into denying patients access to the hospitals in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Israel.

Since Covid started in March 2020, Israel has further reduced the numbers of Palestinians being able to leave the Gaza strip for medical purposes to “fight the coronavirus.” Although Israel has lifted some of the restrictions like allowing Palestinians from the West Bank who have work permits to enter, restrictions on Gaza remain.

Due to the restriction of mobility because of COVID and the halt till November 2020 of the processing applications to leave Gaza from the Palestinian Authority because of Israel’s intentions to annex parts of the West Bank, the number of applications to enter Israel or the West Bank from Gaza for essential medical care have dropped sharply. B’tselem recalls that in March 2021, traffic at Erez Crossing was at 6% of its volume.

From March 2019 to February 2020, according to WHO figures, almost 24,000 Gazans applied for permits to enter Israel for vital medical treatment. Of all these applications, more than a third (8,500) were rejected or not answered before the scheduled appointment. At least 1,996 had cancer, 597 had a heart condition, and 210 required neurosurgical treatment.

The situation is acute in Gaza because of the economic and export blockade by Israel. Gaza’s healthcare system is “flat on its back, with serious shortages of healthcare professionals, inadequate treatment equipment, and low supplies of drugs and medicines. Palestinians in Gaza can rarely travel outside of the Strip, a denial of their fundamental right to freedom of movement”, describes the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Professor Michael Lynk.

The death of Fatma Jalal al Masri is yet another death that should not have happened and is fully due to Israel’s continuing violation of international law and its obligations as an occupying power to ensure freedom of movement in occupied territory and to guarantee the right to health of the occupied population.

Additionally, as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child describes, Israel has an obligation to ensure to the maximum extent the survival and development of the child. Israel as the only authority that controls all passage into and out of the Gaza Strip (except for Rafah Crossing) and determines the level of medical care available within Gaza should be held accountable for these crimes.

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