WHO slams Israeli denial of entry permits to Gaza patients

April 1st, 2008 - 11:48 pm ICT by admin  

Jerusalem, April 1 (DPA) The World Health Organization (WHO) sharply criticized Tuesday Israel’s strict security screening of seriously ill Palestinians who seek medical treatment in Israeli hospitals, calling the policy “inhuman”. Ambrogio Manenti, the head of WHO in Gaza and the West Bank, said Israel’s denial or delay of entry permits to Palestinian patients “shows nonsense, inhumanity and, at the end, tragedies that could and should have been avoided”.

Some 32 ill Palestinians have died in the past six months after they were either denied entry into Israel, or received a travel permit when it was too late, Manenti told a news conference in Jerusalem.

He said that he called the news conference to draw attention to the plight of Palestinians who need treatment outside the besieged Strip.

Before the June take-over of Gaza by the radical Islamist Hamas movement, which coincided with a surge in rocket attacks from the Strip, Israel accepted the overwhelming majority of Palestinian requests for treatment in its hospitals.

In 2006, nearly 5,000 patients from Gaza were treated in Israel, or more than 90 percent of the 5,470 who requested treatment, according to WHO figures.

The percentage of denials rose however to almost 19 percent in 2007, when more than 7,000 Gazans were treated in Israel, but 1,627 patients saw their requests denied.

The denial of permits rose from 3 percent in the beginning of last year, to nearly 36 percent in December, Manenti pointed out.

Manenti presented five cases of Gazans who died recently while waiting for a permit to enter Israel, the youngest a one-year-old baby girl whose request he said was denied “for security reasons.”

WHO officials had contacted the Israeli authorities on numerous occasions, in each of which the Israelis “promised to help”. Nothing had changed however, he complained, calling on Israel to facilitate also the movement of international health staff in and out of the Gaza Strip.

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