PALESTINA, AFFARI DI FAMIGLIA O AFFARI DEL MONDO? 22/9/11
SE GLI ARCHIVI PARLANO 19/9/11
SE GLI ARCHIVI PARLANO 19/9/11
TERRA E LIBERTA' 15/9/11
I FRUTTI DELLE RIVOLUZIONI: STRETTA DI MANO HAMAS-FATAH AL CAIRO 28-4-11
PALESTINE PAPERS. STORIA DI UNA CAPITOLAZIONE 24/1/11
"MA CHE CI STA SUCCEDENDO?". ISRAELE VISTA DAGLI ISRAELIANI 17/1/11
HUMOUR ALLA GEROSOLIMITANA 11/1/11
BIDEN E RAMAT SHLOMO 10/3/10
OXFAM, GAZA WEEKLY UPDATE 14/01/10
JERUSALEM BLUE 21/11/09
OBAMA, IL NOBEL E GLI ARABI 9/10/09
IL PRIMA E IL DOPO GAZA NELLE CONSTITUENCY DI HAMAS 6/10/09
GERUSALEMME, SEGNALI PERICOLOSI
LA ECO-SCUOLA DEGLI JAHALIN 31/08/09
ACCESSO NEGATO 1/4/08
L'Oms denuncia le estreme difficoltà dei pazienti di Gaza a essere curati fuori dalla Striscia. Cinque casi di morti che si potevano evitare, nell'ultima pubblicazione dell'Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità - Ufficio di Gerusalemme.
Martedi' 1 Aprile 2008
Cinque casi di pazienti gravi che non riesco a uscire dal valico di Erez e muoiono. Cinque casi scelti tra i 32 raccolti dall'Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità. Cinque casi-simbolo, per descrivere la difficoltà di essere malati gravi e riuscire a sopravvivere. Ambrogio Manenti, direttore dell'ufficio dell'Oms a Gerusalemme, ha voluto raccogliere questi cinque casi in una piccola pubblicazione, per parlare della "punizione collettiva contro i più deboli di tutti", e denunciare la violazione del diritto alla salute a Gaza, a causa delle lungaggini e di procedure "da incubo" come le ha definite, per riuscire a ottenere il permesso di essere curati in Israele. La situazione è peggiorata molto dopo il giugno 2007, dopo il colpo di mano che ha portato Hamas a controllare completamente la Striscia di Gaza. Erez, a nord, è divenuto l'unico passaggio utile. Rafah è stata chiusa.
Ecco il testo della pubblicazione (per questioni di formattazione sono state omesse le tabelle).
Collective punishment of the weakest: the urgent patients
I. Mona Nofal
II. Amir El Yazji
III. Fatma Abdel Al
IV. Bassam Hararah
V. Mahmoud Abu Taha
Collective punishment of the weakest: the urgent patients
The Jewish German philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote that “the very substance
of violent action is ruled by the question of means and ends, whose chief
characteristic, if applied to human affairs, has always been that the end is
in danger of being overwhelmed by the means, which it both justifies and
Concerning the Gaza strip situation, there are a lot of means which overwhelms
ends. One of these is the quasi total closure of Gaza, since June 2007 by
the Israeli authorities for security reasons. The closure is causing physical,
psychological and economic isolation of Gaza citizens. “An affront to the
dignity of the people” as it was recently defined by the UN Under-Secretary-
General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.2
In this publication we would like to focus public attention on the deterioration
of access for health patients who need to be referred outside of the Gaza Strip
to receive the appropriate medical treatment.
This booklet contains the description of five stories of people who recently
died while waiting for a permit to allow them to have access to a hospital
outside of Gaza. These are only five of many more cases of common people
that during the last months have had the misfortune of becoming severely ill
in the Gaza strip.
The denial and delay of permits released by the Israeli authorities for patients
who have to leave Gaza for health reasons increased during 20073 causing
further problems, in addition to the usual access difficulties that have been
affecting the Palestinian population, particularly during the last eight years.
In fact the right to health — availability, accessibility and quality of health
facilities, services and goods — appears to be optional for the Palestinian
1) Tertiary health care is practically unavailable in the West Bank and Gaza, so patients must be referred and treated outside for specialized medical treatment.
2) The closure system (more than 580 checkpoints, road blocks, earth mounds,
etc. in the West Bank - a territory of 6,000 sqm - and the current quasi total
closure of the Rafah, Erez and Karni borders in Gaza), the separation wall
in the West Bank and a strict permit regime are limiting patients’ physical
access to health care facilities, services and goods.
3) The deterioration of economic conditions, which is increasing poverty and
unemployment rates, has significantly impacted the economic accessibility
of medical treatment and drugs.
4) Strikes by health professionals in the West Bank since August 20064 have
placed a further strain on the health sector.
5) The internal strife in the Gaza strip since the beginning of 2007 has been
complicating the management and access to health services.
6) The cumulative effect of all these factors as well as others reasons — e.g.
the lack of proper medical education in the West Bank and Gaza — is
determining the deterioration in the quality of the available and accessible
From a general health perspective, WHO is highly worried both for the
deterioration of the quality of life of people in the occupied Palestinian
territory, in particular in the Gaza strip, and for their access to health.
The five stories described in this publication show nonsense, inhumanity and,
at the end, tragedies. Tragedies that could and should have been avoided.
Head of Office
WHO for West Bank and Gaza
Mona Nofal was married for 19 years and had seven children. She lived in
Nusairat Camp in the centre of the Gaza Strip, and died at the age of 34 from
rectal cancer in Gaza’s Shifa hospital on 24 November 2007.
Discovering the disease
In March 2005, Mona started to suffer from watery diarrhoea and noticed
mucus in her stool. She asked for health care at the UNRWA Primary Health
Care clinic in the Nusairat refugee camp (central Gaza Strip) where she was
living. The clinic’s doctor suspected the presence of parasites and prescribed
her an antiparasite medication. Mona took the medication for two months
with no response. In May 2005, she went to the same clinic to seek medical
treatment again; however, the doctor this time referred her to an internist in
a non-governmental organization hospital in Gaza City (Al-Ahli hospital).
The internist suggested that she should have an endoscopy for further
examination. In the middle of May 2005, Mona had an endoscopy that led to
the discovery of a tumour in the rectum. A biopsy was taken from the tumour
and sent to an Israeli laboratory to determine the type of the tumour as the
reagents were not available at the Ministry of Heath laboratories in the Gaza
Strip. Two weeks later, the results confirmed the presence of a malignant
tumour in the rectum.
The internist in Al-Ahli hospital suggested a surgical operation in order to
remove the tumour. Such complicated surgery was not possible in the Gaza
Strip because of the lack of adequate specialized care.
Referral Abroad Department
In June 2005, Mona and Wael started the process of health referral out of the
Gaza strip. Although Mona had the medical report that showed the need for
specialized treatment outside of Gaza, the director of Al-Ahli hospital was not
permitted to approve it; the approval had to be issued by a government hospital.
Therefore Mona and Wael visited the director of Shifa hospital who informed
them that the head of the surgical department should approve Al-Ahli hospital’s
medical report. So both of them met with the head of the surgical department in
Shifa hospital and provided him with the medical report, which he subsequently
approved. However, he told them that the medical report still needed to be
reviewed by the Referral Abroad Department in order to get the required referral
document. Two weeks later, Mona and Wael visited the director of the Referral
Abroad Department; but the referral document was not ready yet.
Wael visited a friend who worked in the Palestinian Authority Preventive
Security and told him about Mona’s condition. To his surprise, his friend told
him that he could approve the referral document from Preventive Security
since it has its own quota for patient referral. Wael provided his friend with all
the required documents, and two weeks later Mona got the referral document
signed by Preventive Security.
After getting the referral document to proceed with the surgical operation,
Mona left Gaza on 28 August 2005 for Nasser hospital in Cairo, Egypt.
A first treatment in Egypt
In October 2005, Mona began to prepare for surgery. She had been put on a
specific diet and went through some diagnostic tests.
The assigned date for Mona’s surgery was 10 October. But at the last moment,
surgery was cancelled as the tumour had enlarged and reached the kidney and
the abdomen lining. It was decided that Mona should start treatment to reduce
the size of the tumour before she could have surgery.
Mona successfully responded to the treatment. She went through one
chemotherapy session and 18 radiotherapy sessions for six weeks. As a result,
the tumour size had decreased and limited to the rectum and the anus; the
operation was scheduled.
On 22 November 2005, Mona went through the surgical operation. Only
the diseased parts were removed; the stool flow had been diverted to a new
temporary opening in the right lower part of the abdomen. At that time, doctors
decided that Mona would have another surgical operation after six months
in order to close the new opening and to re-divert stool flow to its original
Mona was hospitalized for ten days after the operation for follow up treatment,
and was discharged on 2 December. Mona received chemotherapy, in the same
hospital, after the dressings healed.
Unavailability of drugs at the Ministry of Health
and development of the disease
Mona went back to Gaza in the beginning of January 2006. She went to Shifa
hospital for the first session of chemotherapy, but one of the prescribed three
drugs was not available at the hospital or at the Ministry of Health central drug
stores. The drug is expensive and the Ministry of Health could not afford to
purchase it regularly, some times it was available and others not. Therefore,
Mona received two sessions of chemotherapy with only two of the three drugs
During that time, Mona started to have other signs of the disease: she started
to suffer from recurrent fever for no apparent reason, leading her to lose
consciousness several times. Wael contacted the doctor who performed Mona’s surgery in Egypt to seek his advice as the local doctors could not explain the
fever. The doctor advised him that Mona should go back to Egypt for the
complete treatment protocol and for other diagnostic tests to investigate the
medical reason behind the recurrent fever; a second referral document was
approved within ten days.
The second treatment in Egypt
Mona arrived at the hospital in Egypt in April 2006 and underwent diagnostic
tests. The results confirmed the presence of severe inflammation in the urine
stream as side effects associated with the surgical operation. Mona stayed for
four months in Egypt as she had to start with the treatment for the complications
first. After that, she was prescribed six sessions of chemotherapy.
After six sessions, Mona underwent more diagnostic tests. The results of the
tests showed the presence of a tumour on the liver and inflammation on the
right lung. Accordingly, it was decided that Mona should receive another three
sessions of treatment for six weeks before surgery. Mona finished this treatment
successfully. The evolutionary diagnostic tests confirmed the disappearance
of the tumour from the liver and the stability of the inflammation on the right
After the Hamas victory in the elections (January 2006) and the formulation
of a Hamas-led government in March 2006, the donor community1, banned
funding to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government withheld tax
revenue. Therefore the Ministry of Health faced an even harsher shortage of
funds, and it became almost incapable of ensuring drug supplies (or salary
Mona went back to Gaza in August 2006 as she had to rest and hoped to start
a new cycle of treatment in Shifa hospital. But, she found that only two of the
drugs she needed were available, whilst the third drug was still not available;
it is very expensive and all attempts to find it in other hospitals or in the central
drug store in Gaza failed.
Accordingly, a third referral document for Mona was sought and approved in
September 2006 to continue treatment in the same hospital in Egypt. Mona
received the fifth treatment cycle of three doses in three months and went back
to Gaza on 28 December 2006 to spend Eid Al-Adha with her family in Gaza.
On 20 January 2007, Mona went back to Egypt to continue treatment. She
received the prescribed three doses and was prescribed another three doses
after diagnostic tests. Mona received one-and-a-half doses and arrived in Gaza
on 9 May after being informed of the availability of the missing drug in Shifa
Unfortunately, Mona found no drug, by the time she reached Gaza they had
been used for other patients.
Internal fighting; Hamas takes over the Gaza Strip;
Rafah border with Egypt is closed
Mona had to secure a fourth referral document in order to return to Egypt to
continue treatment as there was no hope of securing the missing drug in Gaza in
the near future. She was supposed to receive the referral document on 11 June
2007. Mona was on her way to the Referral Abroad Department to receive the
referral document. Gaza was burning at that time as an internal fight emerged
between Hamas and Fatah. Mona went back home as she couldn’t reach the
On 17 June, Mona received the forth referral document; however, she was
not able to proceed to Egypt due to the closure that has been imposed on
Gaza Strip after the 15 June. Mona started to suffer from general fatigue and
Referral to Israel
In July 2007, the Ministry of Health started to refer patients with critical
conditions to Israeli hospitals through the Israeli Erez crossing as there was
no hope of the Rafah crossing to re-open. As a result, Mona got an approved
referral document to the Israeli Iykhlof hospital and started the process of
getting an Israeli permit for her and her mother as an escort to cross at Erez.
Mona and her mother got the permit on 25 July after applying for it on 10
Mona left the Gaza Strip on the same day that she had been issued a permit.
Although delayed in crossing at Erez, Mona reached the hospital on the same
day and went through some diagnostic tests to evaluate her health status and
to set out the treatment regimen accordingly.
Mona had not received the treatment for two-and-a-half months due to different
reasons — drug unavailability; issuing the referral document; Palestinian
internal fighting; closure of Rafah; applying for a permit. Mona started to
have a severe reduction in platelet count and severe anaemia. In addition to
that, the tumour had developed again, with metastasis in the liver and in the
right lung. Mona had been hospitalized for two weeks in the Israeli hospital
and was discharged from the hospital on 9 August with a discharge report that
confirmed another treatment appointment after 15 days.
A delay in issuing the permit for the second
treatment in Israel
Mona applied for a second permit on 10 August as the hospital appointment
date was already set. Her permit was kept under processing for one month.
Mona’s health deteriorated during that time as the cancer was spreading in
her body. She started to suffer from new signs of the disease: severe cramps,
vomiting and lost of appetite, in addition to the continued reduction in platelet
count and anaemia. During these 30 days, Mona was hospitalized several times in Shifa hospital in Gaza as she could not tolerate the pain and received
Mona had to apply for a new exit permit and set a new appointment with the
Israeli hospital, since the appointment date that she got when discharged from
the hospital had passed. She contacted the Palestinian health coordinator and
got another appointment on 10 September. This time, she was issued a permit
on the same day of her hospital appointment.
Mona left for the second time for the Israeli hospital on 10 September and was
hospitalized for two weeks. She received the second dose of treatment during
the second week of her hospitalization period in the hospital. Unfortunately,
the cancer was seriously spreading through her body, and the second dose that
she received did not help; she started to suffer from strong pains in her right
leg, which later resulted in the fact that the cancer had spread also to her leg.
Mona was supposed to receive the treatment regularly, because she didn’t this
may have caused the cancer to spread. She was discharged from the hospital
on 25 September with a hospital appointment two weeks later for a third dose
A third treatment in Israel
Mona applied for a new permit to enter Israel as she had an appointment for
the third dose of treatment. She applied for it on 26 September; it was issued
on 12 October.
Mona was hospitalized for two weeks with no obvious improvement in her
conditions. She was discharged with a hospital report that confirmed that
cancer had developed in her right leg, which made her unable to walk, in
addition to its presence in the liver and the right lung. Nothing could be done
at that time except receiving the biweekly doses of treatment on time.
Mona stayed for one day with her children after she had been discharged
from the Israeli hospital. After that she was repeatedly hospitalized in Shifa
hospital in Gaza as she was suffering from general fatigue, continuous cramps,
vomiting and the severe pain in the right leg.
The long process of applying for a permit for the
fourth treatment cycle in Israeli
In the beginning of November, Mona applied for a new permit. Unfortunately,
the Palestinian health coordinator was removed by the Palestinian Authority
and replaced by a new person on 9 November2. The Israelis refused to
collaborate with the new person for several days, as they affirmed that they
had not been informed of this decision and that they new nothing of the new
health coordinator3. As a result, all applications for permits to enter Israel were
cancelled at that time by the Israelis, as they affirmed not to have a counterpart
to be able to coordinate with. Mona reapplied for a permit for the second time
as the hospital appointment on 10 November was still valid. No response was
given to her from the Israelis. The hospital appointment expired, and Mona
had to get a new one.
As the pain was getting worse, Mona was permanently hospitalized in
Shifa hospital. At that time and as confirmed by the diagnostic tests, Mona
developed cancer in her bones and completely turned yellow as cancer had
spread throughout the liver. In addition, her eyelids started to enlarge and to
cover her eyes; a problem that affected her vision.
By the 13 of November the Israelis agreed to begin coordination with the
new Palestinian health coordinator and Mona managed to apply for a new
permit. A letter from Shifa hospital was issued, saying that Mona had to be
admitted as an urgent case as soon as possible to continue the treatment cycle;
any delay could threaten her life. But, as her Israeli hospital appointment was
on November 10, and she had missed it, the permit was denied. The same
process of securing a new hospital appointment and reapplying for a permit
was repeated, with no response from the Israeli authorities. Finally, on 22
November, because of Mona’s critical status, the Israeli hospital issued an
open appointment for her so she didn’t have to go through the whole process
over and over. On that day, Mona had applied for a fifth permit to receive her
fourth treatment cycle, treatment which had now been delayed for almost two
Mona dies while waiting for the permit
On 24 November, at 2:00 am, Mona asked her mother, who was staying with
her at the hospital, about her husband, who was at home with the children.
Although her mother tried to phone Mona’s husband, the nurse working in the
oncology department advised her not to bother Wael at that time, and promised
to call him early in the morning. As the nurse promised, he phoned Wael at
6:00 am and told him that Mona wanted to see him. Panicked, Wael asked the
nurse if there was something wrong with Mona. The nurse replied that Mona
was fine now but had lost consciousness several times during the previous
four hours. Wael rushed to the hospital and stayed with Mona for about 30
minutes. As stated by him, he was sure that Mona was dying and he couldn’t
prevent himself from crying. Mona died at 7:00 am in Wael’s arms, saying to
him repeatedly “please take care of our seven children”.
1. This does not include UN agencies.
2. The PA accused the old health coordinator of abuse of power and that he had been using the
patient referral system to let non-patients out of Gaza.
3. The PA affirmed, in turn, that they had indeed informed the Israeli side, and this was just a
manifestation of Israeli reluctance to coordinate with them.
Amir El Yazji
Amir El Yazji was a nine-year-old boy, his parents’ second child. He was an
active child; the top of his class. He lived in Gaza City with his parents and
five siblings. He died from meningoencephalitis at Nasser hospital in Gaza on
19 November 2007.
No accurate diagnosis for Amir
On 5 November Amir woke up late and feeling sick. He told his mother that
he would not be able to go to school. Thinking that he was being lazy and
avoiding school, his father insisted that Amir go to his class. After two hours,
Amir returned home from school, complaining of dizziness and nausea.
The feelings of nausea progressed, and vomiting continued for the whole day.
The parents took Amir to the paediatric hospital in Gaza to investigate the
problem. The hospital admitted Amir directly.
At first, the physicians were not certain of the proper diagnosis for Amir’s case.
They changed the diagnosis several times, before coming to the conclusion that
it was meningoencephalitis. Amir was therefore given the typical antibiotic
medication used for meningoencephalitis. However, he continued to complain
of headaches, vomiting and he developed an additional symptom: a problem
with his vision, as his eyes were swollen with excessive discharge of tears.
As time progressed, Amir’s pain became worse, and he started to complain
about any noise or excessive lighting. Amir’s father told us “obviously, the
treatment that Amir was given was not appropriate for his case. It seemed that
the doctors had prescribed medication that did not suit Amir’s condition.”
No spare parts for the CT scan and the transfer to
the Intensive Care Unit (ICU)
Amir’s medical condition deteriorated over a period of five to six days. During
this period, Amir’s family had to buy dozens of painkillers, which the doctors
had prescribed but where not available at the hospital due to a shortage of
drugs in the public sector.
Amir and his non-responsiveness to antibiotic medications perplexed his
doctors. Consequently, they decided to conduct computer-aided tomography
(CT) in order to pinpoint the exact problem. This was only available at Shifa
hospital. However, the doctors informed the family that they must wait for
the CT scanner to be fixed as it was out of order between 6 and 13 November,
due to a shortage of maintenance parts because of the closure of Gaza. This
resulted in delayed diagnosis for Amir, which may have contributed to the
aggravated condition that he reached.
The only diagnostic method that was available to them in this period was
traditional blood tests and cerebral spinal fluid sample analysis, both of which
are not enough to give the proper diagnosis.
On 10 November, the physicians told Amir’s mother that Amir’s medical
condition was unstable and they needed to refer him to the Intensive Care
Unit. On the same day, the X-ray Department at Shifa Hospital informed the
doctors that the CT scan was now functioning and they could send Amir for
the examination. The result of the CT scan indicated that Amir had a small
hyperdense lesion located in the anterior wall of the brain.
At this point, Amir was suffering from very strong headaches and convulsion
attacks; he lost his visual ability completely and experienced loss of
consciousness from time to time. Consequently, the physicians decided that
Amir needed to be transferred to a hospital inside Israel because he was not
responding to the treatment given and he needed magnetic resonance imaging
(MRI), which was not available in Gaza at that time.
Applying for a permit in the midst
of institutional confusion
As soon as the father learned of this decision he immediately started to work
on the referral documents. The father said “I didn’t wait for a moment. Once
I heard what the physician said, I went immediately to the Referral Abroad
Director and gave him all needed documents and reports to issue the referral
abroad documents as soon as he arrived in his office the following day.”
The next day, the 14 November, the Referral Abroad Director issued the
referral document as an urgent case. Consequently, the documents were now
ready to be sent to request a permit from the Israeli side.
Right after the documents were ready for the request of the permit, the Referral
Abroad Department informed Amir’s father, Shaher, that they would now
contact the health coordinator at the District Coordinator’s Office, DCO, to
start applying for an urgent permit for Amir.
In the Palestinian DCO in this period there had been a redeployment of
staff, and this complicated Amir’s situation. In fact the Israeli side refused
to cooperate with the new Palestinian health coordinator, who had been put
into office on the 9 of November. Thus, the only solution was to find a third
person who could be accepted by the Israelis. Coordination resumed on the
13 of November, but not with the PA appointed health coordinator, with a
third person identified by the Israeli DCO within the Palestinian District
No answer from the Israeli authorities
Shaher was disorientated by this whole process, but he did not let it halt his
actions. Rather, he went directly to the old health coordinator’s home in Bait
Lahia village and gave him all needed documents to apply for an urgent permit
for his son. But, the old health coordinator refused to contact the Israelis, as he
was not on duty anymore. Shaher then contacted the third health coordinator,
recognized as the interlocutor by the Israeli side. This health coordinator then
applied for Amir’s permit at as an urgent case, implying that the permit must
be issued within 2 to 48 hours after submission. As they were waiting for
the permit, the director of the Referral Abroad Department called Shaher and
informed him that they had received a reply from Sorosky hospital inside
Israel that they were ready to receive Amir in their Paediatric Department.
Now, it was just a matter of waiting for the permit’s approval.
As Shaher could not wait anymore, the next day he went to the health
coordinator’s office early in the morning, where they spent the whole day
contacting the Israeli side in an attempt to get Amir’s permit to pass Erez and
approach Sorosky hospital. Shaher said “between 8 am and 5 pm, the health
coordinator and I made hundreds of phone calls, without any positive reply
from the Israeli side.” It was very frustrating for Shaher to go home with no
answer regarding his son’s permit.
The same scenario was repeated on the 16 and 17 November. Phone calls
were made and faxes were sent but nothing worked out. The Israeli answer
remained the same: “Amir’s permit is still in process”. Shaher said “during
that time, I was very stressed and confused. The physicians in the hospital
were alarming me that Amir’s medical condition was becoming more critical.
I became very frustrated that Amir’s permit might be reaching a dead end.”
Redeployment, permits, coordination
During those three days, Amir’s medical condition dramatically deteriorated.
He completely lost consciousness, the convulsion fits increased and the
discharge of tears increased. The physicians were helpless to improve Amir’s
On 18 November, while Amir was unconscious inside the Intensive Care Unit,
all medical staff working at the paediatric hospital organized a strike protesting
Hamas’ replacement of the director of the paediatric hospital by a new one.
Therefore it was very difficult to find an available physician that day.
Later the same day, the Israeli liaison office at Erez crossing called the
Palestinian liaison officer to inform him that Amir’s permit was finally
approved. He and his aunt could now go to the hospital in Israel.
Since Amir was unconscious, under oxygen mask and connected to a monitor
and pulse oximator, he would have to pass through Erez in a Palestinian
ambulance equipped with ICU, monitor, oxygen supply and medical staff.
Then, at the Israeli side, a security officer would check the ambulance and
transfer the patient to an Israeli ambulance, which would be waiting on the
Israeli side of Erez to take the patient to the Israeli hospital.
Amir’s father expressed joy as they informed him that Amir would be
transferred to the Israeli hospital. Shaher said “when they told me that
everything was ready, we were just waiting for the ambulance; I thought this
would take a few minutes.” However, Shaher said that it took longer than
that. The medical team, consisting of a physician and two nurses, who were
supposed to accompany Amir in the Palestinian ambulance, were denied access
to Erez by the Israeli side for security reasons. Five different teams — that is,
15 medical staff working in the Palestinian Ministry of Health — were refused
even though they had already accompanied patients to the Israeli side of Erez
other times. Finally, a team passed the Israeli security checks.
Time constraints of the bureaucracy
However, at 4:45, the Israeli liaison officer at Erez called the Palestinian officer and told him “everything is ready now, but you have only 15 minutes to reach Erez, because we will close the office at 5:00 pm”. Preparing the medical
staff to accompany Amir; transferring Amir from the ICU Department to the
ambulance; connecting Amir to the ICU monitor and oxygen supplier; and
driving from the hospital to Erez would take at least an hour.
The Palestinian liaison officer and the health coordinator tried to convince
the Israeli side to extend the time because it was unreasonable to be at Erez at
such short notice. Nevertheless, the Israeli answer was firm: “they have to be
there before 5:00 pm or they have to wait until tomorrow”.
Amir is pronounced dead
The health DCO coordinator told Shaher about the Israeli reply, and they
agreed to wait until the next day. However, Amir’s condition was becoming
more critical. He would not be able to wait. But what else could be done?
On 19 November, Shaher reached the health coordination office at 7:30 in the
morning. However, before he could make the first phone call to the Israeli
side, the hospital rang Shaher to inform him that Amir had passed away at
7:45 am after a sudden deterioration in heart function.
1. This was a one off strike only within the Paediatric hospital, where health workers protested
against the change of the hospital director with a Hamas-affiliated one.
Fatima Abdel Al
Fatima Abdel Al, 66 years old, lived in Rafah camp in the south of the Gaza
Strip. She was a mother of nine. She died at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis on
11 November 2008 as a result of an infected hip fracture neck fracture.
The fracture of the hip
Fatima was not complaining of any physical problem when, on 24 September
2007, she fell down while she was in the kitchen. Her son took her directly to
the hospital where an X-ray revealed that she had a hip fracture neck fracture.
The physician told Fatima that she needed surgical intervention to fix her
pelvic joint. The physicians at the Gaza European hospital, where Fatima had
had laboratory tests and an X-ray, advised her to seek referral at the Nasser
hospital for the surgery because the necessary material, called bone cement,
was available only there. Fatima’s son, Sabri, tried to buy this material himself
but it was not available. As he stated, “I searched the whole Gaza Strip to find
the bone cement necessary for my mother’s operation, but I didn’t manage to
find it because of the strict closure.”
reduction of health care services
Surgery was therefore sought at Nasser hospital and was scheduled for 6
September. However, by that time, all health providers, including surgeons,
were on strike, and thus they postponed all surgery except urgent emergency
The strike was against the redeployment of several health directors within the
Gaza Strip by Hamas. As protest, the health workers limited working hours
from 8 am to 11 am. This meant that the operating room was working only
for the most urgent cases; hip neck fracture was not considered one of them.
Fatima stayed 12 days in her home doing nothing except waiting for the health
providers strike to end.
A new appointment was fixed, and the operation was to be performed on 7
October, but Fatima was surprised to find the absence of the material they
needed also at the Nasser hospital; it ran out of stock just couple of days prior
to her operation.
It is worthy to note that following Hamas’ de facto take-over of the Gaza Strip
in June 2007, Israel imposed a strict closure on the Strip, which even further
the hospitals’ capacity to provide the necessary health services. The shortage
of many essential items in the Ministry of Health stores had consequences on
the health situation of the population in the Gaza Strip. Sabri told us “We used
to buy everything my mother needed privately, such as the medications and
Though the material was missing, the operation was done anyhow, and Fatima
was discharged four days after. As she felt better the physicians advised her to
complete her treatment at home. Therefore, Fatima was sent home where the
home care nurse used to visit her daily and do the necessary dressing for her.
On 14 October, Fatima was readmitted to Nasser hospital because the stitches
were severely infected. At the hospital they started to manage the infection by
daily dressing and antibiotic therapy. However, the infection did not respond
to the treatment. On the contrary, the symptoms worsened.
Referral to specialized treatment outside Gaza
After two weeks of unsuccessful treatment at Nasser hospital, the infection
extended; severe swelling was observed in her lower limbs, and on 29 October
Fatima lost consciousness. She was immediately transferred to the Intensive
Care Unit. The physicians notified Sabri that an urgent referral must be issued
for Fatima for better treatment in a specialist hospital in Jerusalem or inside
Sabri immediately went to the Referral Abroad Department to prepare the
needed documents. The closest date for referral was 7 November at Makased
hospital in Jerusalem. All efforts to reserve an earlier date in Makased hospital
or at any hospital in Israel failed.
After finishing with the Referral Abroad Department, Sabri went to the
Palestinian health District Coordination Officer, DCO. He provided the DCO
with all required documents for issuing Fatima’s permit.
On 6 November, the Palestinian health DCO coordinator phoned Sabri in
the evening and informed him that the permit was ready for Fatima and her
daughter and they could travel to Jerusalem the next day.
The following day was a long one for Fatima, Sabri and the health workers at
Nasser hospital. As Sabri said, “At 6am everything was ready for travelling to
Jerusalem. My sister prepared her luggage and Fatima’s, the ambulance and
the nurse who would accompany Fatima to the Israeli side of Erez were ready;
the only thing missing was the Israeli permission to enter.”
Waiting was the main feature of that day; they waited for four hours to get
the first phone call from Erez at 10 am. The Israelis phoned to ask about
the ambulance information and the nurse who would accompany Fatima to
the Israeli side of Erez. Fatima, her daughter, the ambulance and the nurse
who was supposed to accompany her waited until midnight hoping to receive
a response from the Israeli side; they knew that the permit and the referral
document would expire by the end of the day. This meaning that, the next day,
they would have to restart all referral procedures from the begging.
Coordination, permits, bureaucracy
On 9 November, when the attempts of getting Fatima to Jerusalem failed,
the Palestinian health DCO was removed from office, and a new one was
appointed. Sabri believes that this had a devastating effect on the process
of coordination between the Palestinian and the Israeli side as the Israelis
refused to deal with the new coordinator in the beginning2. In addition, the
new Palestinian health DCO was not experienced enough to take over such
The next day, Fatima and her family had to start the whole process from the
beginning. In order to enable Fatima to access better health care in an Israeli
or Jerusalem hospital, they would have to accomplish four things. First, they
had to reserve a place for Fatima in a hospital; second, they needed to get a
referral abroad document; third, they needed to receive a permit for crossing
at Erez; last, they needed to agree with the Israelis on the ambulance and the
health staff who would accompany Fatima to the Israeli side of Erez.
Despite the urgency of Fatima’s case, and the ongoing deterioration of her
health condition, the process of preparing Fatima’s documents again took a
very long time.
The first obstacle was reserving a place for her in one of the Israeli or Jerusalem
hospitals. The closest date was on 24 November and again it was at Makased
hospital in Jerusalem. The Referral Abroad Department sent Fatima’s papers
to several Israeli hospitals seeking a closer date, but the Israeli hospitals’
response was “no vacancy”.
Another obstacle was preparing the referral document. However, Fatima’s
medical condition was rapidly deteriorating, and the physicians who were
treating her were stressing the urgency of referring Fatima to a more advanced
On 10 October, the Palestinian health DCO coordinator informed Sabri that
the Israelis did not accept the application for new permit as the proposed date
was too far away and they needed to apply a the permit only five days before
the proposed date.
But death does not wait
From 7 to 10 November Fatima was fighting against death. Her condition
continued to deteriorate. She completely lost consciousness, and her kidney
functions were markedly impaired.
On 10 November, the investigations showed a high level of septicaemia in
Fatima’s plasma level, which meant that the infection was spreading all over
the body via the blood. Accordingly, her vital organ functions were severely
On 11 November, at 11:45 pm, the hospital phoned Sabri to inform him that
Fatima had passed away due to a sudden impairment in the lungs and heart
functions as a result of uncontrolled septicaemia.
1. The health professionals in Gaza declared a strike that lasted from the beginning of August to the 17 of September.
2. The Israelis refused to collaborate with the new person for several days, as they affirmed that they had not been informed of this decision and that they new nothing of the new health coordinator. The PA affirmed, in turn, that they had indeed informed the Israeli side, and this was just a manifestation of Israeli reluctance to coordinate with them. On the 13 of November coordination between the two sides resumed.
Bassam Hararah, 36 years old, lived in Shija’iah, Gaza City. He was married
with six children. His oldest child is 8 years old, the youngest 4 months. He
died at Shifa Hospital in Gaza from kidney failure.
The discovery of the disease
Bassam started to complain of influenza-like symptoms on 2 March, 2007.
When the symptoms were not relieved by typical flu medication, Bassam
went to a Primary Health Clinic, PHC. After preliminary investigation and
blood testing, a severe deterioration in kidney function was detected. As a
result, Bassam was urgently referred to Shifa Hospital in Gaza, where he was
admitted and had more comprehensive examinations.
After thorough investigation, it was found that Bassam was in the last stage of
renal failure. Obviously, such results were extremely traumatizing for Bassam
and his family. Consequently, haemodialysis was prescribed after Bassam’s
admission to the Medical Department at Shifa hospital on 4 March 2007.
Hoping for a better diagnosis:
the journey to Egypt
However, due to lack of improvement and lack of trust in the Gazan medical
services, after two weeks of haemodialysis, Bassam decided to try Egyptian
hospitals at his own expense for more advanced investigation and to have
a second opinion regarding the diagnosis he received in Gaza. Bassam paid
for all the investigations and tests he underwent in Egypt, hoping that these
investigations would bring more promising results. However the results
confirmed the severe illness and the need for kidney transplantation as soon
Upon his return to Gaza in the second week of April, 2007, Bassam started
preparation for kidney transplantation, as well as undergoing regular
haemodialysis sessions twice a week. The cost of kidney the transplantation
operation, as he was told by his physician in Egypt, would have been around
US$ 20 000–25 000. The Palestinian Authority would contribute US$ 9000
towards the operation with the remaining to be paid by Bassam.
Even though the surgery that Bassam needed was very expensive, relative to
his income, his family and relatives managed to secure the amount. It was a
relief for Bassam to know that he would finally have the operation.
Bassam’s condition gets worse
Meanwhile, Bassam was going through preparatory procedures at Shifa
Hospital, including more investigatory tests and the Vistula operation.
As anticipated, the preparation process took him two months, as various small
operations and investigations were performed. However, the general medical
condition of Bassam was rapidly deteriorating. It was apparent through blood
tests that there was deterioration in liver and heart functions. As a result, the
number and duration of the weekly haemodialysis sessions was increased:
three four-hour sessions a week.
However, it was very difficult to schedule the planned operation due to a lack
of necessary medical equipment and the long waiting list. After two months
of waiting and due to the continuing deterioration of Bassam’s condition, the
family decided to have the kidney transplant in Egypt instead. Therefore, in
the second week of June, they started to prepare themselves to travel to Egypt.
Bassam was very excited and optimistic. He thought that finally his suffering
with haemodialysis, the subclavian catheter, and the recurrent episodes of
fever and inflammation would end. Bassam started to prepare his luggage and
the list of presents he would bring back from Egypt for his six children after
Rafah crossing is closed and the health system in Gaza is managed by two conflicting powers
The most severe internal clashes between Hamas and Fatah took place in
Gaza on 15 June, resulting in Hamas’ take over of the entire Gaza Strip.
Consequently, all crossings between Gaza and the external world were closed
by the Israelis, including Rafah Crossing.
As time went on Bassam complained of serious medical symptoms. Therefore
a return to the weekly dialysis sessions at Shifa hospital that he had initially
been prescribed was inevitable. Bassam continued hoping for the closure to
Between June and September, Bassam’s family was confronted with the battle
between Fatah in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza. Patients and their families were
confused due to the redeployment of the president of the Shifa hospital, not
recognized from Ramallah. Furthermore, Hamas changed the reporting system
including the papers needed for the application of referral abroad facilities and
for financial help from the Health Ministry. Therefore, Bassam´s family had
to change the papers accordingly. Because of the confusion, Bassam’s family
changed the medical report six times during this period. Bassam’s brother said
“between June and September, I stopped going to work, as I had a full-time
job working on Bassam’s medical reports and moving between the Referral
Abroad Department, Shifa hospital and the Ministry of Health.
Bassam’s condition was urgent. However, it seemed that no-one cared. It was such a disappointment for the whole family to have to wait over and over again. The more Bassam thought that he was close to having the operation, the more things happened around him that limited his opportunity to do so.
Erez Crossing denied
Bassam’s medical condition further worsened. In addition to impairment of
liver and heart functions, Bassam started to complain of breathing difficulties.
During this period, Bassam used to spend most of his days at Shifa hospital,
either for his weekly haemodialysis sessions or for conducting more laboratory
As Rafah crossing was still closed, Bassam’s only possibility was detouring
from Erez to Egypt through Jordan. As a result, Bassam applied to the
Referral Abroad Department in order to get a permit to travel through Erez.
The Ministry of Health approved his request as his condition needed urgent
medical intervention that was not available in Gaza and began to prepare
the needed medical reports and other relevant documents in order to issue
a referral document for Bassam to assist him in obtaining a permit to travel
It was at the beginning of September when the Referral Abroad Department
applied for the first permit for Bassam. Five days later the Israeli District
Coordination Office rejected Bassam’s permit “for security reasons”.
Reapplying for the permit
As instructed by the Israeli District Coordination Office, the Referral Abroad
Department informed Bassam’s family that one month must pass before
reapplying for another permit after the first rejection. Therefore, waiting was
the only thing Bassam could do in the meantime. In addition to the 12 hours
of haemodialysis he used to undergo every week, he also had often to wait in
the haemodialysis department for his turn to come because of the long list of
patients waiting for their haemodialysis sessions. At the same time, he was
complaining of periodic fever episodes resulting from the chronic infection in
the subclavian area where the catheter was fixed for haemodialysis.
After one month, the Referral Abroad Department applied for a second permit.
But, the answer did not change: “no permit because of security reasons”, no
The Death of an elderly man at Erez and the
deterioration of Bassam’s condition
After the rejection of Bassam’s permit for the second time, the family started
to lose hope of receiving a permit from the Israelis, and this state of frustration
was aggravated by the death of an elderly man at Erez checkpoint as he was
waiting for his coordination to pass through Erez.
Bassam’s brother said “I was at Bassam’s bedside at Shifa hospital when we
received the news of death of the old man. The effect of this story was terrible
on all of us, especially Bassam. He told me that he did not want to go to Erez
anymore but to die in Gaza, with his family by his side.”
Bassam’s medical condition was severely deteriorating. His heart problems
were aggravated and breathing difficulties increased. His brother Sharif said
“in addition to the three regular weekly sessions Bassam used to undergo,
he repeatedly complained of episodes of tachycardia, shortness of breath and
tremors. These episodes used to attack Bassam at least twice a week. In every
episode, we used to transfer Bassam to the hospital where he must undergo
additional haemodialysis session every time.”
Many of the essential drugs Bassam needed during that period, such as
antibiotics and human albumin, were not available in the hospital pharmacy
also due to the Palestinian Authority’s financial crisis. So Bassam’s family
bought these drugs from private pharmacies, which cost them lots of money.
Bassam’s brother Ayman said “my monthly salary is about US$ 300. I used to
spend all my salary for Bassam’s transportation to and from the hospital and
for purchasing his medication.”
The most prevailing symptoms Bassam encountered during this period were
the episodes of fever and tremors due to the infection caused by the subclavian
catheter. According to Sharif, who accompanied Bassam throughout his
illness, “the sub-clavian catheter was changed about seven times during the
haemodialysis period”. Accordingly, the physicians at Shifa hospital decided
to go for the Vistula operation regardless of Bassam’s number on the waiting
list as his case required immediate intervention
The health workers’ strike
The operation date was fixed at the beginning of September, but the surgeons
postponed the operation because there was not enough anaesthesia in the
operation room. The shortage of anaesthesia was reported as a result of the
Another date was assigned for the Vistula operation, but Bassam was to
encounter another obstacle: the health providers’ strike. The call for this strike
came on the 14 of August and lasted until the 17 of September, from the
Union of Medical Professions, to protest against the redeployment of many
health directors in the Gaza Strip. As a result of this strike, working hours
were limited to three working hours per day, 8 am till 11 am. The operation
rooms were partially opened for the most severe and urgent cases. Bassam’s
case was classified less urgent than others. Therefore, he lost his opportunity
for the Vistula operation and he kept using the subclavian catheter for dialysis
until his last days.
Though the medical strike was over, Bassam waited the whole of October for
his turn to come on the highly congested waiting list for a Vistula operation.
After the end of the strike, many people had been waiting for their operation,
and this had made the waiting list even longer.
On 3 November, it was Saturday midnight when Bassam complained of
shortness of breath as usual. His brother Sharif took him to the hospital as he
used to do when the symptoms were aggravated. The resident doctor examined
his heart and recommended haemodialysis for 7:00 in the morning because
Bassam was complaining of hypotension at the time. A few minutes before
the time of haemodialysis, Bassam’s medical condition rapidly deteriorated.
Doctors and nurses tried to resuscitate him, but without success. Bassam died
at 7:00 am 4 November in Shifa Hospital.
However Bassam’s battle never ended even after his death. His family could
not find cement to cover his grave as cement was not available in Gaza.
1. Vistula is a surgical intervention where the forearm’s main artery and vein are linked together for haemodialysis.
2. While the official Ministry of Health is headquartered in Ramallah, Hamas partially controls the health facilities in Gaza. Management of the health system is heavily complicated by this factor.
3. The man had an appointment at an Israeli hospital for treatment; he waited from the early morning for coordination and he died at 6:30 pm, even though he had a permit.
Mahmoud Abu Taha
Mahmoud Abu Taha, 22 years old, was a resident of Rafah, in the south of
the Gaza Strip. Mahmoud was single and had seven brothers and three sisters.
He died in Tel Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv from abdominal cancer on 29
Abdominal pains and surgery
In the beginning of September, Mahmoud started to complain of abdominal
colic. As a result, his family took him to a private doctor, who affirmed that
Mahmoud had amoeba, a type of parasite, in his abdomen; accordingly,
Mahmoud was given medication.
Three days later, the symptoms became worse, as Mahmoud started
vomiting and suddenly lost consciousness. Right after this, Mahmoud’s
family immediately transferred him to the nearest hospital. Then, after initial
examination, they referred him to Nasser hospital. At Nasser hospital, after
seeing his abdomen X-ray, they admitted him immediately and prepared him
for surgery in the morning.
After performing the surgery, the doctors informed Mahmoud’s family that he
was affected by abdominal cancer. The intervention did not cure him. Despite
the operation, there was still fibrosis in parts of his intestine. Mahmoud
stayed in the hospital for another two weeks after the surgery, but his medical
condition was deteriorating. As a result, physicians in Nasser hospital decided
to refer him to the Gaza European Hospital, where there is a more advanced
At the Gaza European hospital, after one week of comprehensive investigations
and biopsies analysis, the oncologist confirmed to Mahmoud’s family that
Mahmoud had abdominal cancer. For such a condition, no proper treatment is
available in Gaza. Consequently Mahmoud needed to be referred to an Israeli
hospital urgently in order to have further medical intervention.
The need for referral to an Israeli hospital
Mahmoud’s family contacted the Referral Abroad Department seeking an
urgent referral, and they provided them with all required documents for this
matter. Despite the urgency of the case (usually urgent cases receive the
document within 48 hours); it took the Referral Abroad Department four days
to issue the referral document and to make the reservation at Tel Hashomer
hospital. Three days after issuing the referral document, the health coordinator
at the District Coordination Office called Mahmoud’s father to notify him that
Mahmoud’s permit was ready, and that he (the father) could escort him to Tel
Hashomer hospital in Tel Aviv early in the morning.
It was early morning on 17 October; everything was ready in the Gaza European
hospital for Mahmoud to go to Tel Hashomer. The signal came from the Israeli
coordinator at 3:30 pm to go. Mahmoud, his father Kamal, the ambulance
driver and the nurse accompanying Mahmoud moved immediately.
They approached Erez at 4:30 pm; the Palestinian liaison officer told them that
they could go. They moved directly to the Israeli side of the crossing. Before
they approached the checkpoint, the soldiers on the control tower called out
at them via loudspeaker, saying “the ambulance must return to Gaza, no entry
The ambulance driver returned back to the Palestinian side. After 30 minutes,
the Israelis called the Palestinian liaison officer and told him that the ambulance
with Mahmoud and the nurse could pass to the Israeli side while Kamal, who
was 65 years old, had to walk along the long tunnel - around 1200 metres - and
meet with them after passing the checkpoint.
While Kamal was walking through the tunnel, the soldiers at the control
tower used the loudspeakers again to inform the ambulance driver that he was
not allowed to enter to Israel and he had to go back to Gaza. Therefore, the
ambulance returned to Gaza.
Consequently, Mahmoud was brought back to the Gaza European hospital. As
Mahmoud’s medical condition was deteriorating rapidly, the family started the
process of applying for a new permit.
The difficulties of coordination
On 18 October, the health coordinator applied for an urgent permit for
Mahmoud and his uncle. But, the Israeli District Coordination Office informed
the Palestinian side that Mahmoud’s uncle was not allowed to enter Israel.
Therefore, the Palestinian coordinator applied for Mahmoud’s cousin to be the
escort, but he was also refused. Based on that, Mahmoud’s family decided to
ask for the coordination without an escort in order to save time and to avoid
However, what became apparent later was that Mahmoud’s relatives were
not the only obstacle towards his travelling to Israel. On 20 October, the
Israeli District Coordination Office rejected the nurse who was supposed to
accompany Mahmoud to the Israeli side of Erez. The nurse was replaced,
and another coordination request was submitted. But the Israeli District
Coordination Office replied on 22 October that this time the ambulance driver
was rejected. Keeping in mind that every new coordination, from submission
to receiving the reply, takes at least two days, ten days had now passed since
Mahmoud returned from Erez the first time, on October 17.
The cost of care
During this period, Mahmoud’s medical condition was quickly deteriorating
as the medical examinations showed the development of cancer metastasis all
over his intestine. The oncologists at the Gaza European hospital tried a session
of chemotherapy with him; but, due to his weak intestine, the chemotherapy
was stopped right away as he could not tolerate it.
Mahmoud lost several kilograms during his illness. He became totally
dependent on intravenous catheter for feeding but, the amount of nutrients
he was submitted had to be reduced from 4.5 litres to 1.5 due to the severe
shortages of such nutrients, and other required drugs, in the Ministry of Health
stores. As a result, the family bought the drugs privately, as well paying for
histopathological investigations, which were all very costly for the family,
considering their low income and the general economic hardships.
On 28 October at 10:00 am, the health coordinator called Mahmoud’s brother,
Hani, to inform him that the coordination had been made for Mahmoud to
cross Erez in an ambulance that had just passed Erez the same morning and
transferred a patient to an Israeli ambulance. Mahmoud had now received the
coordination to pass Erez and had to be in Erez within one hour.
Mahmoud’s mother said “As soon as I heard this news, I went directly to
Mahmoud to tell him about it. I witnessed his eyes brighten with hope.
Mahmoud asked me to keep all the gifts he had received during his illness for
him when he came back cured from Israel.”
Mahmoud leaves Gaza, but uncertainty rises over what happened to him next
Within no more than one hour, Mahmoud was at Erez, the nurses who
accompanied him from the Gaza European hospital transferred him to the
ambulance which would take him to the Israeli ambulance and everything was
now ready waiting for the Israeli signal to go.
Finally, after three hours of waiting, the Israeli liaison officer called to
give the ambulance the green light to move to the Israeli side of Erez. The
Palestinian ambulance moved immediately and transferred Mahmoud to the
Israeli ambulance without any obstacles. When the Palestinian ambulance
returned back to the Palestinian side without Mahmoud, his family exchanged
congratulations and expressed relief that Mahmoud would now be in good
hands in a specialized hospital.
As soon as the Palestinian health coordinator called Mahmoud’s brother
Hani to inform him that Mahmoud got the coordination to pass Erez, Hani
immediately called his relatives who live inside Israel to meet Mahmoud at Tel
Hashomer hospital. They immediately moved there and waited for Mahmoud
to arrive. When Mahmoud was transferred to the Israeli ambulance, it was
4:30 pm. Given that driving from Erez to the hospital takes at the most about two hours, this means that Mahmoud should have been at the hospital around
Mahmoud’s relatives waited for him at Tel Hashomer until 3:00 am on 29
October. They searched all the hospital departments, including the new
admissions and oncology departments but no one had heard about Mahmoud.
Hani said “when our relatives told us about this incident and the fact that
they could not find Mahmoud, we didn’t sleep the whole night. Instead, we
kept calling them to get any new news. We also called Physicians for Human
Rights and B’tselem1 to help us locate Mahmoud. We could not believe that
Mahmoud seemed to have simply disappeared.”
Mahmoud is dead
On 29 October, the Israeli liaison officer called to inform the Palestinian side
that Mahmoud passed away in Tel Hashomer hospital. According to Hani, “we
still have not got any answer regarding to our question on what happened to
Mahmoud after he was transferred to the Israeli ambulance. Where did he die?
Was he transferred to any place?” Mahmoud died on 29 October, and his body
was brought back to Gaza two days after his death.
To find out where Mahmoud had died, the Liaison office at Erez crossing was
contacted; so were Physicians for Human Rights and Tel Hashomer hospital to
explore what happened to Mahmoud between 28 and 29 October. After delay,
the Tel Hashomer hospital stated in a formal letter that Mahmoud had been
admitted to the internal medical department on 28 October, and that he passed
away on the 29 October after deterioration of his medical condition due to the
What happened to Mahmoud’s father, Kamal?
Despite the difficulty for him in walking such a long distance in the month
of Ramadan, when Kamal accompanied his son on 17 October on his first
tentative referral to Israel, he followed the orders given to the Palestinian
Liaison Officer. Kamal took his luggage and walked along the tunnel.
At the checkpoint, the Israeli security officers ordered Kamal to take off his
clothes. After few minutes of being naked, the officers gave him a long shirt
and asked him to wear it. Thereafter, they carefully checked his luggage and
passed him through an X-ray checking machine.
After passing all sophisticated checking procedures, they transferred him to
an unknown place where Israeli intelligence officers started to interrogate
him about the reason he was going to Israel. Kamal tried to convince the
intelligence officers that he was accompanying his ill son to be treated in Tel
Hashomer hospital. However, the officers did not believe him and accused
him of using this excuse in order to execute a terrorist attack inside Israel.
After six hours of extensive interrogation, Kamal was transferred to Ashkelon
Prison, where he spent the night in solitary confinement.
The next morning, Kamal was brought to court where he was accused by
the state attorney of planning an attack in Tel Aviv. In the court, Kamal had
an attorney from the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem who was
advocating for Kamal’s right to accompany his ill son to have life-saving
treatment inside Israel. The final decision taken by the court was to extend
Kamal’s arrest for another 10 days.
After 10 days of detections and interrogations, which it is not the purpose
of this booklet to describe, on 29 October, Kamal was taken again to the
interrogation room finding the same investigator as before waiting for him.
As soon as he sat down, the Israeli investigator told him that Mahmoud had
passed away, and they would release him now. Kamal said “The only thing I
was able to do at that moment was to cry silently.”
A few hours later, an Israeli jeep took Kamal from the Ashkelon Prison to
Erez checkpoint and released him back to Gaza at 6:30 pm. Kamal arrived at
his home in Rafah at 8:00 pm, where he found people coming to offer their
condolences for the death of his son.