The Israeli authorities are continuing their policy of blackmailing patients and using the Gaza Strip’s border crossings, over which they exercise absolute control, to arrest Palestinians compelled by humanitarian needs to travel through them. Hence on Sunday, 15 July 2012, the Israeli forces arrested a patient at Erez crossing, after they had called him on a previous occasion for an interview.
According to the information available to the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel, on Sunday 15 July 2012, the IOF arrested Rawhi Fouad Qazaz, 43, after he left his house heading for the crossing in the morning hours on Sunday to attend an interview with the Israeli intelligence apparatus, with the aim of obtaining medical treatment at Makassed Charitable Hospital in East Jerusalem. Qazaz suffers from a disorder in the cartilage (meniscus) of his knees). He is married with three children.
According to field investigations, he received a referral from the Palestinian Directorate of Medical Services on 31 May 2012, and obtained an appointment for 6 June 2012 at Al Makassed Charitable Hospital in Jerusalem. He submitted an application to the Office of Health Coordination, which is responsible for arranging Gazan patients’ passage through Erez crossing, on 31 May 2012. He did not receive a reply. On 12 July 2012 Qazaz received a call from this office telling him to go to the crossing for an interview with the Israeli Intelligence Agency (ISA). In the morning hours on Sunday, he went to the crossing and did not return. At approximately 6:00 pm on the same day, a man introducing himself as from the ISA called Qazaz’s relatives and informed them that Qazaz was being detained at Ashkelon prison for interrogation. He was still in detention as this press release was being published.
The occupation authorities have continued this policy despite a campaign of international condemnation. Reports by the World Health Organization for the period 1 January 2012 - 30 May 2012 state that occupation authorities rejected applications for medical travel from 38 patients, including 14 women, and did not provide a timely response to 199 patients, including 89 women. The number of patients attending interviews with Israeli intelligence at Erez crossing came to 91, 53 of them men and 38 women.
The Al Mezan Center for Human Rights and Physicians for Human Rights - Israel express their strong condemnation of the detention of Qazaz, a medical patient. They see in this incident a continuation of Israel’s policy of extortion of Palestinian patients and exploitation of their medical suffering, in an abuse which makes clear the extent to which Israel exempts itself from its legal commitments under the rules of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth Geneva Convention. The two organizations also warn of Israeli’s escalation of this policy of extortion. This is the third such case since the beginning of July: during the month to date, the IOF has arrested one patient and a patient escort in two separate incidents.
The two organizations demand that the occupation forces guarantee the patient’s medical treatment. They call on the international community to promptly and effectively intervene to halt Israel’s grave and systematic violations of the rules of international humanitarian law and human rights standards in general, and the right to health in particular.