(photo credit: AP [file])
Six Gazans, including a 16-year-old girl and two women in their early 20s, suffering from cancer and other serious ailments and who desperately need treatment in Israel are being prevented from entering the country by the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the organization Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
PHR submitted a list, which included the six, to the Shin Bet on Wednesday asking for expedited entry permits.
One of those on the list, according to Ran Yaron, project coordinator for the Occupied Territories Project at PHR, was turned away because she refused to become an informer for the Shin Bet.
Inas al-Najar, 20, a mother of two, had already been treated twice before at Ichilov Hospital for recurring bone cancer. The last treatment was in July.
Al-Najar arrived at the Erez Crossing four days ago because she had been told she had been granted entry for treatment. However, when she arrived, she was taken aside by a Shin Bet officer at the crossing and asked to become an informant, Yaron told the Post. When she refused, they sent her back.
The Shin Bet confirmed that it had received a request from PHR. "It is being processed through an accelerated investigation," the security agency said. "The cases in question are complex and require strict examination in order to prevent the possibility of a security risk."
It added that "one of the patients has already been approved [for a permit] by the Shin Bet. A final answer regarding the rest will be given with the greatest possible speed through the accepted channels."
Others on the list include Lubna Alian, 22, who has Hodgkin's lymphoma, with growths in her chest. She received a referral for radiation and chemotherapy at Tel Hashomer. She was supposed to cross through Erez on October 7, but was turned back.
Eimad Zaarab, 27, who has been deaf since birth, has a cancerous tumor in his brain. He has a referral to be treated in the neurosurgical unit at east Jerusalem's San Josef hospital. He was supposed to leave Gaza on Thursday, but was turned away at the crossing.
Kamal Mansour requires urgent bypass surgery because one of the major arteries bringing blood to his heart is blocked, according to an expert opinion by an Israeli doctor that was provided to the Post by PHR. The necessary treatment does not exist in Gaza.
Mansour was supposed to cross over on October 8, but he, too, was turned back.
Islam Taim, 16, was referred for an operation in Jordan to correct a birth defect in her heart. PHR said it sent the request in July.
"Lately, we are witnessing a tightening of restrictions. If all the sick were allowed to leave in the past, now only those in life-and-death situations are allowed to leave. Even then, some are not allowed to cross. The crossing with Egypt is closed. The only way out is Erez," Yaron said.
"They are isolating Hamas at the cost of the sick. It is the same civilian population before and after the declaration of Gaza as a 'hostile entity,'" Yaron added.
PHR said it had approached the IDF Spokesman's office for help. The IDF said, according to Yaron, that two cases would be reconsidered.
Dr. Danny Filc, chair of the PHR board of directors, told the Post on Thursday that "the strictness started after the disengagement, got worse after Hamas did well in the elections and then got much worse after Hamas took control of Gaza."
"A 16-year-old who needs treatment and two sick women in their 20s can hardly be considered serious security risks," he added. "The attempt to drive the population to repudiate Hamas by making conditions worse for them merely leads to escalation and anger at Israel."
Those whom PHR attempts to help are generally referred by hospitals or the office in the PA that deals with exit permits; sometimes the patients approach the organization themselves. PHR then provides expert opinions to bolster the patients' cases, as well as lobbying the security services on the patients' behalf.