Israel travel ban threatens cancer patients in Gaza

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CITY GAZA, Gaza – Israel informed the Palestinian Authority on June 3 of its decision open the Erez-Beit-Hanoun crossing for cancer patients to gain access to life-saving treatment not available in the Gaza Strip. Israel closed my crossings with Gaza on May 10, when it launched an offensive against the besieged enclave.

The battles that lasted 11 days are over fire cease between Hamas and Israel on May 20. The latest escalation has caused more than 1900 injuries… But Israel continued prevent patients crossing the border for treatment.

A government source told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity for security reasons, that Israel is opening the transition to cancer patients it is simply propaganda to avoid responsibility for the residents of the Gaza Strip. “Israel has allowed access to only 330 cancer patients out of 1,012,” he said.

The source lamented: “There are many patients with life-threatening conditions who urgently need to travel for treatment, in addition to the large number of people injured in the latest escalation who cannot receive the treatment they need in Gaza.”

The source said: “Israel has not stopped its aggression against Gaza, it has dozens of applications for entry permits.” He still indirectly condemns him to death. After the recent war, the number of people seeking treatment in Israel has doubled. About 100 requests are received daily. Most of them remain unanswered. We do not know if the Israeli side is considering these requests or simply rejecting them. “

The source explained that Israel wants to extort money from Gaza by refusing treatment abroad. “Israel is handling patient inquiries at an unprecedented rate. [The General Authority For Civil Affairs] communicates daily with the Israeli side and international and humanitarian organizations to put pressure on Israel to allow patients to travel. “

Doctors of the Oncology Department Rantisi Hospital declined to speak to Al-Monitor about the consequences of refusing to treat patients abroad, stating only that it was a political issue.

Al Monitor spoke to journalist Fathi Sabah, whose 24-year-old daughter has been battling leukemia since 2012 and receives monthly treatment in Israel. She missed her last meeting. “My daughter was supposed to leave for treatment on May 20, but Israel closed the crossing,” he complained.

“Cancer,” Sabah said, “requires continuous treatment. We cannot measure the negative impact of treatment interruptions without atomic scanning devices in Gaza. We will not be able to travel until the next appointment as scheduled by the hospital in accordance with the treatment protocol. There are no urgent visits. If you do not come on time, you will have to wait for the next appointment. ”

He indicated that his daughter was initially treated at Al-Mutlaa Hospital in Jerusalem. After a bone marrow transplant at the Hadassah Medical Center in Israel in 2017, she was treated there. “At the moment we cannot offer her anything. We just have to wait, ”he said.

The 58-year-old cancer patient spoke to Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity while lying at Al Rantisi Hospital. “We came here to take vitamins and supplements to revitalize our exhausted body. There is no medicine for us here, ”she said.

She added: “In 2020, I felt a lump in my chest, but doctors in Gaza were unable to diagnose my illness. I was referred to the King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan. My husband and I left in March 2020. We were stuck in Jordan for over seven months due to isolation from the coronavirus, until the Israeli organization Maslak, which defends freedom of movement, was unable to coordinate our return. We are waiting for permission to move to complete the treatment. The cancer has spread all over my body. We were supposed to leave in January, but the Israeli side has not yet given us permission. ”

Her 85-year-old husband, who sits on the bed next to her and monitors the remaining intravenous solution, said Israel has allowed him to travel since he has also been suffering from cancer for 14 years that has reached his lungs. He is being treated at the King Hussein Cancer Center, but does not want to part with his wife. “I cannot leave and let my wife die here. She also needs to travel for treatment. We must go together, ”he added.

Eman Shanan, breast cancer survivor and director Help and Hope Program for Cancer Patients in Gaza, Al-Monitor said it received 40 requests from patients who were supposed to leave during the recent round of escalation but were unable to do so due to the closure of the crossing.

“Cancer patients are on a treatment protocol that must be followed. Violation of this protocol or its postponement has negative health consequences, which can lead to uncontrolled spread of the disease, ”she explained. “Most cancer treatments are not available in Gaza, especially radioactive iodine., atomic scanning, radiation, complex surgeries and chemotherapy ”.

She noted that some patients went to government hospitals for immunotherapy, waiting for treatment to be resumed, but the drugs were not there. “The Gaza Ministry of Health is suffering from shortage of drugs“Because of the Israeli siege and PA restrictions,” she said.

Shanan explained that a group from the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem tried to get to Gaza to treat patients there, but the Israeli side refused to grant them access. She also noted that the Al-Mutlaa Hospital in Jerusalem has donated a shipment of drugs for cancer patients, which is expected to arrive in the coming days.

“As a cancer survivor, I don’t let patients be numbers. Treatment is a human right and is prohibited from being used for political or security reasons, ”she said.

Belonging more than 8600 cancer patients In Gaza, 75% leave the besieged enclave for treatment abroad, according to the Ministry of Health.

Shanan expects breast cancer to become a more serious problem as fewer women are diagnosed early and screening rates decline amid the coronavirus crisis.

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