OVER 50 PALESTINIANS WAITING FOR ISRAELíS MEDICAL VISA DIED IN 2017: WHO
Wednesday, 14 Faburary 2018
Over 50 Palestinians lost their lives over the past year due to Israelís refusal to grant them visas to travel to the other parts of the occupied territories for medical treatment, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.
According to the WHO figures released on Tuesday, a total of 54 Palestinians died in 2017 as they were waiting for travel permits from Israelís overly bureaucratic visa issuance system.
Rights activists have long criticized Israel for depriving Palestinians of their right to healthcare, as the regime continues exercising rigorous security checks for those coming from the Gaza Strip to Jerusalem al-Quds and the West Bank for medical treatment.
Medical equipment for many serious health conditions such as cancer is not available in Gaza due to Israel's restrictions on imports of key medical technology to the coastal enclave.
According to the WHO, out of 25,000 applications to travel for treatment in 2017, only 54 percent were granted in time for their appointments, compared with 62 percent in 2016 and 92 percent in 2012.
"There is a worrying decline in the approval rate for patients to exit Gaza, with 2017 the lowest rate since WHO began monitoring this in 2008," said the head of WHO offices in the Palestinian territories, Gerald Rockenschaub.
The WHO, Amnesty International and Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, Medical Aid for Palestinians and Physicians for Human Rights issued a joint statement on Tuesday calling on Israel to ease restrictions.
The Israel-Palestine head for HRW, Omar Shakir, expressed concern over "wider and wider" use of security justification to reject or delay permits for Palestinians.
"It is not based on security but based on a political strategy to isolate Hamas," he told AFP.
The reports comes as seven medical centers have been shut down in different parts of the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip since earlier this month due to shortage of fuel for their electric generators.
In late January, the WHO office in Palestine warned that all the health facilities in Gaza Strip would run out of fuel in maximum two months.
The Gaza Strip, with a 1.85-million-strong population, has been under an Israeli siege since June 2007. The blockade has caused a decline in living standards as well as unprecedented unemployment and poverty there.
Israel has also launched several wars on the Palestinian sliver, the last of which began in early July 2014. The last Israeli military aggression, which ended on August 26, 2014, killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians. Over 11,100 others were also wounded in the war.