An ill woman, Asia Al Sharatha, 27, died on Monday after the Israeli authorities prevented her access to a hospital in the West Bank for urgent medical treatment. Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the Israeli continuous closure imposed on the Gaza Strip and calls for its immediate lifting to enable the population of Gaza to access basic services, particularly healthcare, in the West Bank.
At approximately 9:00 am on Monday 10 March 2014, medical sources at Kamal Odwan Hospital announced the death of Asia Mohammed Sharatha, 27, after her health condition deteriorated. Sharatha was a resident of Izbet Abed Rabbo in Jabaliya town in the North Gaza district. According to Al Mezan’s field investigations, she suffered from a heart condition and needed an urgent surgery that cannot be done in Gaza. However, the Israeli authorities did not give her permission to reach a hospital in the West Bank to do the surgery. She had applied for permission with the Israeli authorities in October 2013 to reach the hospital in the West Bank via Erez crossing.
While processing her request for permission, the Israeli authorities insisted that Asia attends an interview with the Israeli security authorities at Erez crossing on 9 March 2014. When she arrived at the crossing, the Israeli authorities refused to allow anyone to accompany her, so she had to walk on her own for about a kilometer into the crossing to attend the interview. She entered Erez crossing alone at approximately 9:00 am. She waited there until 3:00 pm before being interviewed.
In his affidavit to Al Mezan, her husband stated that his wife was asked questions about her relatives and neighbors. The Israeli security did not ask her any questions about herself. She was not feeling well after she returned home and at approximately 1:30 am on Monday 10 March 2014 her condition deteriorated. Her husband took her to hospital where doctors tried to provide treatment, but she died at approximately 9:00 am on the same day.
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights strongly condemns the ongoing Israeli closure of the Gaza Strip, which puts civilians’ lives in danger, particularly patients who need medical treatment that Gaza’s hospitals cannot provide. Israel’s years of closure have severely undermined the health sector in Gaza and hospitals lack medical equipment necessary for treating severe medical conditions. As a result, hundreds of patients have to be referred to hospitals outside Gaza; especially in the West Bank. Asia was referred to a hospital in Hebron, which is about 90 minutes from her house in Gaza by car.
According to the monitoring of Al Mezan, the Israeli intelligence service abuses patients’ need and vulnerability by offering them permits in return of information about their relatives and neighbors. Such interviews delay the processing of the permit requests and impede patients’ access to hospitals, hence further endangering their lives.
The restriction of medical access is also in violation of Israel’s obligations under article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 12 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Economic Rights (ESCR).