Israel denies PA claim it’s responsible for deaths of 3 Gaza infants
After Hamas blamed Abbas, Ramallah said Israel refused family of babies entry permits; Israel says no applications received
Dov Lieber is The Times of Israel's Arab affairs correspondent.
Israel on Wednesday denied responsibility for the deaths of three babies in the Gaza Strip, saying it never received applications to bring them to Israel for medical care.
Earlier in the week three children under the age of 1, all suffering from heart disease, died in Gaza hospitals.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday blamed the Palestinian Authority for the deaths, saying that Ramallah had refused to give medical referrals for the babies to be treated in the West Bank. The PA then blamed Israel.
Dr. Bassam al-Badri, who heads the Palestinian Authority department responsible for authorizing treatment for Gazans outside of the Strip, claimed Israel had refused to grant exit permits to guardians of the children.
But the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), the Defense Ministry branch that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs, said no such request had been made.
“No request was received from the Palestinian Authority to coordinate medical treatment in Israel for the three infants,” COGAT wrote in a statement to The Times of Israel.
The statement emphasized that in cases which “the Palestinian Authority sends requests, especially those defined as urgent, the Gaza Coordination and Liaison Administration coordinates the crossing of patients immediately during every hour of the day in order to save lives.”
Between Monday and Tuesday, Musab Bilal Ar’aeer, Baraa Ghaben and Ibrahim Tbeil, all of whom were under the age of 1, died in Gaza hospitals.
Pictures of Ghaben appeared in Palestinian social media.
استشهاد الطفل المريض براء محمد غبن وهو شهيد الحصار الثالث خلال ساعات بعد منعهم من العلاج بالخارج pic.twitter.com/Ho1sWzYCt4
— محمد سعيد #فلسطين (@MohamdNashwan) June 27, 2017
To leave Gaza and travel to Israel for medical treatment, or to receive treatment in the West Bank or abroad, Gazans must first get confirmation from the PA that it will pay for the treatments.
The PA pays for nearly all medical treatment of Gazans when they leave the Strip.
The PA is currently carrying out a series of tough measures aimed at forcing Hamas to cede control of the coastal enclave, including reducing the amount of electricity, government salaries and medical aid it provides the Strip.
“The behavior of Mahmoud Abbas in stopping the medical transfers for Gaza’s sick, which has led to the martyrdom of a number of children, constitutes crimes against humanity,” said senior Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zurhi in a statement over Twitter.
Gaza Deputy Health Minister Yusuf Abu Rish warned Tuesday, “There are a number of infants facing the same fate in the coming hours in Shifa Hospital, as well as in al-Nasr Children’s Hospital and al-Rantissi Children’s Hospital.”
The Gaza Heath Ministry and international medical rights groups in Gaza say the PA has significantly decreased aid sent to the Strip as well as medical referrals.
Over 1,600 Gazan patients are waiting for referrals from the PA as of June 25, according to Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHRI).
PHRI spokesperson Dana Moss said in 2016 that the average number of requests approved by the PA per month was 2,041. In May and June of 2017, she said, the PA was granting just 10 referrals a day, with the average number of requests being 120.
Gazan patients, she said, “are held hostage to political infighting.”