Israeli doctors urge 14 Gaza cancer patients be allowed out for treatment

Oncologists warn that delaying diagnosis and treatment can lead to deaths; rights group says 14 Palestinian women are waiting for permission to enter Israel

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative: A Palestinian woman receives treatment at the Wolfson Medical Center in the central Israeli city of Holon, on April 11, 2018.  (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Illustrative: A Palestinian woman receives treatment at the Wolfson Medical Center in the central Israeli city of Holon, on April 11, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

More than 30 Israeli doctors appealed to the Health and Defense ministries urging them to grant permits for 14 female Palestinian cancer patients from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel and the West Bank for treatment, saying delays could be fatal.

Thirty-one oncologists signed a letter to the ministry and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) highlighting the plight of patients due to the increasing difficulty in traveling for treatment following a tightening of entry permit policies, according to Physicians for Human Rights–Israel.

“Undoubtedly, the likelihood of cure and the ability to relieve the suffering of cancer patients are higher the sooner diagnosis and treatment are provided,” the letter said. “There is no justification for delaying the patients’ requests for months on end.”

Israel regularly allows Palestinians from Gaza to enter the country to obtain medical treatment that is not available in the coastal enclave. Others transit through Israel to the West Bank.

On Monday the Knesset Committee for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equality, chaired by Joint (Arab) List MK Aida Touma-Sliman, was to debate the issue of women in Gaza under the Israeli blockade, including the cancer patients.

Israeli soldiers guard on the border with the Gaza Strip on May 29, 2018. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Physicians for Human Rights said that over the last year there have been delays in the treatment of 45 Gaza patients, some for six months or more.

Currently, there are 14 women waiting for the COGAT office at the Erez border crossing to grant them permission to enter Israel, according to PHRI. Seven have breast cancer and four have thyroid cancer, and three have growths on the spine, lungs, or kidneys.

Bella Kaufman, a breast cancer specialist at Sheba Medical Center who signed the letter to the Health Ministry and Cogat, said preventing patients from receiving treatment is “unreasonable by any ethical, humanitarian, or international criteria.”

Since March 30 there have been weekly clashes on the Gaza border as part of the so-called “March of Return” protests.

A Palestinian uses a slingshot during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip, east of Gaza City, on May 18, 2018. (AFP Photo/Mahmud Hams)

Dozens of Palestinians have been killed in the violence. Israel faces weekly attacks by violent protesters at the border who have planted explosive devices, hurled stones and Molotov cocktails, and even engaged in gunfire with troops. It says the riots are orchestrated by Hamas, which rules Gaza, and used as cover for attempted terror attacks and breaches of the border fence.

Hamas and fellow terror organization Islamic Jihad have acknowledged that dozens of those killed were their members.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, after which Israel and Egypt imposed a blockade on goods entering the territory. Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent Hamas and other terror groups from bringing in weapons and military equipment. Goods are shipped to Israel ports, where they are reviewed and then brought into Gaza on hundreds of trucks every day.

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