Gazan Women Protest Israel for Cancer Treatment

'Premeditated death sentence,' is what Gazan patients are calling Israel’s travel ban and delays that prevent them for accessing medical treatment in Israel and the West Bank.

Dozens of female cancer patients in the Gaza Strip have launched a protest against Israel’s refusal to allow them to cross into Israel to seek medical treatments in hospitals in Israel, East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The women say the ban or delay of their treatments is a “premeditated death sentence.”
This is the first organized public protest of Gazan patients against Israel’s ban on their medical treatment outside the Gaza Strip since the Strip’s closure was enacted in 2006. The women say the protest follows a sharp rise in patients – especially cancer patients – who cannot leave Gaza strip for medical treatment in Israel, East Jerusalem or the West Bank after years of being allowed to do so.
The protest is spearheaded by Iman Shanan, 47, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and whose condition has since improved due to treatment. Recently she was referred to Tel Aviv’s Assuta Hospital for an examination to locate cancerous tumors, for fear of the disease’s recurrence.
She asked to go to the hospital for the examination three times, but every time her request was denied. Shanan, who heads the NGO Aid and Hope Program for Cancer Patient Care in Gaza, told Haaretz that the protest initiative started after requests came in from numerous women, for whom the ban on receiving treatment outside Gaza was literally a fatal decree.
Shanan says the number of denials of requests to leave Gaza for treatment has risen dramatically, for reasons classified by Israel as security related.
In the last two weeks the women have demonstrated twice outside the offices of the Red Cross and the Gaza-based offices of the Palestinian Civil Affairs Committee, which coordinates the departure of patients from the Strip with Israeli authorities. In both protests the women carried posters demanding that they be allowed to leave for medical treatment in the West Bank and Israel. They also held a one-day hunger strike.
One of the demonstrators, Majar Naizi, 27, also a former breast cancer patient, was referred to Assuta for tests to locate cancerous cells. She had been treated in East Jerusalem in 2014 and 2015, but her request to leave for an examination scheduled this past November 1 was denied.
“My condition is deteriorating and I have to understand how to proceed,” she said this week. “I can’t take medication without understanding my condition, the doctors are thinking of giving me medicines without the examination because I can’t get a permit to have it, but it could cause me serious damage.”
Sausen Kadih, 49, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor last June, was at first cleared to undergo treatment in a Ramallah hospital, but in the past month the permits were not issued and her request was denied. The Israeli army has not replied to her requests to keep the appointments.
Sihan al-Tatri, 53, suffers from lymphatic leukemia and must undergo chemotherapy treatments once every three weeks in the Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem. Tatri entered Israel twice and received the treatments, but when she wanted to have the third round of treatments she was denied entry. Her request is “being examined” and she has already missed two appointments for treatment. Her next appointment has been set for Monday.
“Because of my treatment’s delay, I feel weak and have to begin the treatment all over again,” she said. “If they don’t give me a permit they are sentencing me to death. What country can agree to us dying because we didn’t get the right to medical treatment?”
Physicians for Human Rights, an NGO that helps patients from Gaza obtain permits to leave the Gaza Strip for treatment, says that over the past year the number of denials to allow patients to leave for treatments has risen by 44 percent. In 2016, 69 requests were denied, compared to 48 denied in 2015 and 23 in 2014, the NGO said.
PHR asked the coordinator of government activities in the occupied territories (COGAT) to enable some patients’ departure from Gaza for treatment. COGAT said in response that Israel’s “civilian policy” regarding Gaza remains as it was, and that hundreds of people enter Israel via the Erez checkpoint to receive medical treatment in Israel, the West Bank and abroad, and that their number has even grown in recent years.

Jack Khoury

Haaretz Correspondent

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Video of the Week New Clashes Erupt Between Israeli Security Forces, Muslim Worshippers

Temple Mount temporarily closed to Jewish visitors after clashes with police

The Temple Mount was temporarily closed to Jewish visitors on Wednesday at the order of Jerusalem District Commander Yoram Halevy after Jews broke visitation rules at the holy site, police said. The Jewish visitors were expelled from the compound for bringing sacred books to the Mount and trying to pray there. After one of the individuals was cautioned, another took out a holy book, and the group was expelled. Meanwhile, renewed clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli security forces near the Lion's Gate in the Old City, where police used stun grenades against the demonstrators. A regular dynamic has developed involving clashes between Palestinians and Israel Police over the past several days near the Lion's Gate. Dozens of Palestinians are present at the site on a regular basis, urging devotion to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount and condemning Israel. During Muslim prayer times, particularly the midday and nighttime prayers, hundreds and sometimes even thousands have been gathering there.

There have been outbreaks of violence during these periods, including stone-throwing or physical confrontations with the police. In most of these incidents, the police have been using stun grenades and sponge-tipped bullets to disperse the crowds. In a number of cases, journalists in the area have also suffered violence at the hands of the police. On Tuesday, Hassan Shaalan, a reporter for the Ynet news website, was struck by a policeman even after he identified himself as a member of the press. A group of Jerusalem-based journalists released a statement of condemnation over the incident and called on the police to permit reporters to do their jobs. The Jerusalem Police responded: "This involved an incident that took place in the course of violent disturbances of the peace that occurred in Jerusalem while the police were acting to remove the demonstrators from the street after some of them refused to vacate. The forces working on the scene are under constant threat to their lives.

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