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26 March 2008

Israel/Occupied Palestinian Territories: Israeli army denying cancer patient vital treatment

The Israeli army must allow chronically ill cancer patient Karima Abu Dalal to leave the Gaza Strip and obtain desperately needed medical care in Israel, Amnesty International said today.

“Karima Abu Dalal's life now hangs in the balance because of the Israeli army's failure to allow her a permit to leave Gaza to obtain specialist cancer treatment not available there," said Amnesty International. "The Israeli authorities should immediately allow her to access the treatment she needs."

More than 40 people are reported to have died in the Gaza Strip in recent months because they were refused passage out of the area in order to obtain urgent medical treatment that could not be provided to them there.

Karima Abu Dalal, 34, suffers from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer which can be cured if appropriate treatment is provided in time. Her condition has deteriorated recently and she now has difficulty breathing and walking. Her doctors in Gaza consider that her survival depends on her being removed urgently to Israel for treatment at an advanced medical centre.

Since the Israeli authorities tightened their blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, closing the border between Gaza and Egypt, each of the 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants has to obtain the permission of the Israeli military authorities to leave the Gaza Strip for Israel. This is almost always refused. While some exceptions are made on a 'humanitarian' basis, the Israeli military has denied permits for scores of ill patients saying they cannot allow them to leave the Gaza Strip because of unspecified "security" reasons.

Medical facilities in Gaza lack the specialized staff and equipment to treat a range of conditions, such as some forms of cancer and cardiovascular illnesses. Hospitals and medical facilities are also increasingly short of drugs, disposable supplies and functioning medical equipment.

Despite repeated requests since last November, the Israeli army has refused to issue a permit allowing Karima Abu Dalal to leave Gaza for medical treatment. A request made to the Israeli army last Sunday is still awaiting a response.

“Denying passage to patients in desperate need of medical care serves no legitimate security purpose, as all patients undergo strict security checks at the crossing, and are generally gravely ill,” said Amnesty International. "Israel, as the occupying power, is responsible for the right to health and access to health care for Karima Abu Dalal and all 1.5 million residents of the Gaza Strip."

Background information:

mKarima Abu Dalal received a bone marrow transplant, chemotherapy and radiotherapy in Egypt before the Israeli authorities closed the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt in June 2007. This treatment was apparently successful. The Israeli army issued Karima Abu Dalal with a permit allowing her to leave the Gaza Strip in August 2007 to undergo courses of chemotherapy in Nablus in the West Bank. She responded positively to these and was due to return to Nablus in November 2007 for further treatment, but her requests to do so were rejected by the Israeli military authorities for unspecified “security reasons”. The Israeli High Court of Justice also refused a petition against this decision stating that they saw “no grounds for intervention”.

Karima Abu Dalal has been treated at the Shifa Hospital in Gaza. But doctors there say she now needs more specialist care at an advanced medical centre in Israel if she is to have any chance of survival.

AI Index: PRE01/095/2008
Region Middle East And North Africa
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