Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Sick Gazans die in ‘avoidable tragedies’

Israel has turned away more sick Palestinians from Gaza seeking treatment since Hamas seized control of the enclave and several have died each month unnecessarily, a United Nations agency said on Tuesday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said Israel denied entry permits to 18,5% of patients seeking to leave the Gaza Strip in 2007 versus 10% in 2006.

In December 2007, 36% were denied permits compared with 8,5% in December 2006.

The WHO said the number of applicants and the percentage of those turned away surged after Hamas Islamists seized control of Gaza in June, the crossing to Egypt was closed and Israel tightened restrictions on the enclave.

Israel could not provide figures for how many sick Gazans were granted travel permits last year. A senior defence official denied the system caused unnecessary death, but said Israel was wary of would-be suicide bombers using illness as a cover.

Israel says its blockade on the enclave is a response to cross-border rocket fire by militants while international organisations have condemned it as collective punishment.

”Even under fire and under threat we still coordinate the health needs of Gaza’s population,” said Colonel Nir Press, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liaison Administration for Gaza.

Shortages of medicine, equipment and trained medics, which local officials blame on Israeli restrictions, mean advanced health care is virtually non-existent in the Gaza Strip.

Thousands of Gazans have been treated over the years in the Jewish state.

The WHO said 32 Gazans died between October 1 and March 2 while waiting for travel permits.

It could not provide comparative figures and said it was hard to measure whether faster treatment would have saved them, characterising many of the deaths as unnecessary.

”All these tragedies could have been easily avoided,” WHO’s head of office for the West Bank and Gaza, Ambrogio Manenti, told a news conference. Palestinian medical officials in Gaza say more than 100 Gaza patients have died since June after being denied permits.

Israel pulled troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005 but effectively still controls its borders. Palestinians say that means Israel must observe Geneva Convention obligations as an occupying power to provide services for the territory.

Egypt has allowed some Gazans in for treatment, but has agreed with Israel to keep its border largely closed. – Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Rebecca Harrison
Guest Author

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

South Africa’s mothballed ‘supermall-ification’ sets strip malls up for success

Analysts agree that the country has enough malls and that, post-Covid, the convenience of local centres lure customers

Mabuza’s Russian jaunts and the slippery consequences of medical tourism

For more than five years the deputy president has remained steadfast in his right to travel abroad to receive medical treatment

More top stories

SA teens, you’re next in the queue for a vaccine...

Teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 will be able to register to receive their Covid-19 jab from 20 October. This group will be given only one dose of the Pfizer vaccine, for now

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell dies aged 84

The 84-year-old died as a result of complications from Covid-19

Kunming Declaration on biodiversity: A show of political will that...

More than 100 countries pledged to better protect nature at UN biodiversity talks last week

Russia’s Sputnik V Covid-19 vaccine turned down over HIV concerns

The vaccine might increase the risk of vaccinated males getting HIV, says SA’s health products regulatory authority

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…