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Palestinian battling cancer is denied exit from Gaza for treatment

The medical care Ahlam Abu Musa needs isn’t available through Gaza’s debilitated health system, but the Israeli army has denied all four of her exit requests.

By Amjad Yaghi

Ahlam Abu Musa, 20, was diagnosed with cancer in May 2018. The treatment she needs is not available in the strip, but the Israeli army has denied her multiple requests to exit through the Erez Crossing.

Ahlam Abu Musa, 20, was diagnosed with cancer in May 2018. The treatment she needs is not available in the strip, but the Israeli army has denied her multiple requests to exit through the Erez Crossing. (Photo by Amjad Yaghi)

Ahlam Abu Musa was diagnosed with bone cancer last May. The 20-year-old from Shaboura refugee camp in Rafah, south of the Gaza Strip, has since tried to obtain an exit permit to receive treatment at Al Makassed Hospital in East Jerusalem, but the Israeli army has denied her multiple requests.

Ahlam sought care in hospital after hospital, but Gaza’s health system is dealing with severe shortages in supplies, and the lines of patients awaiting treatment at government-funded hospitals is especially long.

By the time a doctor could finally examine Ahlam, he misdiagnosed her condition. She was first told the pain she felt was a result of a broken foot. When the pain grew worse, Ahlam went to see another doctor, who discovered a cancerous tumor in her left foot.

According to Dr. Jamal Abu Hilal, the orthopedist treating Ahlam, the cancer is spreading rapidly, and it needs to be monitored carefully. Dr. Abu Hilal is refusing to operate on Ahlam, however, because the medical equipment required to conduct the surgery is not available in Gaza, he said.

Ahlam and her mother then began making arrangements to have her receive treatment outside Gaza. The mother and daughter first submitted a permit request to leave the strip through the Erez Crossing in late July, both were denied. They tried again in October through the Palestinian General Authority for Civil Affairs, but their request was denied again based on security concerns. Their third attempt, in December, was also denied.

Shortly after, Ahlam’s family managed to secure donations to cover the costs of the surgery at a hospital in Jordan, and the procedure was scheduled for late January. When they applied for an exit permit the fourth time, their request was denied yet again.

Ahlam’s mother, Wahida, is the family’s sole provider. Her father has been unemployed for years, and suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure. “We’re not affiliated with any political party to be denied a permit based on security reasons,” said Wahida. “I don’t know what we did to be punished this way.”

Ahlam says the pain has gotten so intense, she can’t sleep at night. “I can’t build a future for myself in this condition. I’ve been stuck at home since May,” she said. “All I want is to have the surgery so that the pain can go away. Why are my mother and I being denied a permit? We don’t pose any danger to Israel.”

According to a response received on Feb. 10 from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the Israeli military body responsible for administering the occupation, “over the past few years we have witnessed a significant increase in the number of requests submitted by Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip for permits for medical and humanitarian purposes,” and in 2018, there was a 15 percent increase in the number of permits issued to residents of Gaza for medical and humanitarian purposes relative to the prior year.

Regarding Ahlam’s case, COGAT noted that “in contrast to what was claimed in the article regarding Ahlam Abu Musa, two applications for medical permits were sent to the Coordination and Liaison Administration to Gaza requesting permission for her to exit the Strip in order to receive medical treatment that is available in Gaza. For privacy reasons, we are unable to go into further detail, but we do note that the treatment in question is not a treatment for cancer.”

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Palestinians in Gaza can leave the strip in one of two ways: through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, or through the Erez Crossing with Israel. While Rafah is the primary exit point for Gazans seeking to travel abroad, Erez is the only crossing Palestinians can take to travel to Israel and the West Bank.

Since Hamas took over Gaza in 2006, Israel has allowed Palestinians to cross through Erez only based on “specific Israeli-defined categories,” according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied territories.

Patients in Gaza are referred to hospitals in East Jerusalem when they require treatments that aren’t available in most of the occupied territories, due to Israel’s restrictions on goods, including medicine and medical equipment, as well as fuel for electricity. According to OCHA, most referrals are for cancer treatment.

Based on data collected by Gisha, an Israeli rights group that focuses on freedom of movement in and out of Gaza, in 2018, a total of 103,325 Palestinians were allowed to exit Gaza through the Erez Crossing, of which 30,174 were patients and their companions. The resulting average of exits per month last year was higher than in 2017, but lower than the monthly averages for 2015 and 2016.

Amjad Yaghi is a journalist from Gaza.

Editor’s note: 
The article was updated on Feb. 11 to include a response from the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.

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    COMMENTS

    1. Bruce Gould

      It’s an honor killing, done by the IDF.

      Reply to Comment
    2. UnimpressedRealist

      This is depraved and on a whole new level of evil. I have no words at all beyond sheer and utter contempt and disgust for anyone who can do this. My aunt died of cancer and for a young girl to endure this in addition to being treated like a faceless statistic denied her humanity and right to live; just boils my blood to no end.

      Play God is what this is.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      The Gazans need to solve their own health issues.
      They cannot blame Israel for all their problems.
      PS: It might help them if they recognised Israel’s right to exist first !!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Your worst nightmare is that Hamas comes out tomorrow and recognizes Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized boundaries according to the ’67 lines and Jerusalem as capital of both countries. Of course, the Palestinians have recognized this right but shhhhh!–we wouldn’t want to spread that around too much–keep it under wraps and keep yelling “Jordan is Palestine!”

        Reply to Comment
      • Trubble Maker

        “The Gazans need to solve their own health issues.
        They cannot blame Israel for all their problems.”

        I have to ask.. are you naturally stupid or do you have to keep practising? [:o(

        Reply to Comment
    4. Ben

      So does anyone still need evidence that the Israeli occupation of Gaza persists to this day?

      And that it is an occupation violating the Fourth Geneva Convention with respect to protected persons under occupation?

      And does anyone still need evidence that the Israeli government treats non-Jewish human life as sub-human life, Palestinians as untermenschen?

      The man who Israelis have tasked with the authority to control travel in and out of the occupied territories is on record:

      “A Jew always has a much higher soul than a goy, even if he is a homosexual.”
      “To me, [Palestinians] are like animals, they aren’t human.”
      “I have to keep the state Jewish. Things that contradict the values, culture or tradition will not receive a stamp of approval.”
      –Eli Ben Dahan, Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense*

      * Eliyahu Michael “Eli” Ben-Dahan is an Israeli Orthodox rabbi and politician. He was Deputy Minister of Religious Services from 2013 to 2015. He currently serves as a member of the Knesset for the Jewish Home, and is the Deputy Minister of Defense. His duties include the authorization of travel and entry permits for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza

      Uri Misgav explains:

      “…Truly a nation of a light unto the gentiles. The only question that remains to be asked is this: How can a nation so proud of being “the only democracy in the Middle East,” and “a villa in the jungle,” and all sorts of other stupid slogans; can operate in practice as the only theocracy in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Not just because it has combined religion and state from the date it was established, Israel also dismantled the Religious Affairs Ministry and then reestablished it – and then actually, from among all the possibilities, it placed the ministry in the hands of the Jewish Brothers Naftali Bennett and Eli Ben Dahan. This must be a rather crazy nation. For all those who cannot remember how it happened, I will remind you that the non-religious reformist party Yesh Atid made its entry into the Netanyahu coalition conditional on the inclusion of Habayit Hayehudi, the Jewish Brotherhood…”
      https://www.haaretz.com/.premium-the-human-hierarchy-1.5305946

      Reply to Comment