Desperately Seeking Israeli Medical Treatment"To our regret, it has been proven again that Gaza Strip-based terrorists are continuing their efforts to exploit the humanitarian channel in order to carry out attacks in Israel. The security inspectors acted exactly as expected, with exemplary professionalism."
Defense Ministry Crossings Authority Director Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Kamil Abu Rokon
"The foregoing [preliminary investigation] attests to the ongoing efforts by terrorist organizations based in the Gaza Strip, especially Hamas, to exploit Israel’s humanitarian initiatives and the medical assistance that it provides to residents of the Gaza Strip, in order to perpetrate attacks in Israel."
Israel Security Agency/Ministry of Defense statement
Hope & Aid Organization for Cancer Patients Gazan women protest Israel's travel ban which prevents them access to cancer treatment, January 2016.
Back in January of last year, there was a protest and a hunger strike by Gazan Palestinian women who were suffering from cancer and who were striking against what they said was the decision by Israeli authorities to no longer allow Gazans in to Israel for medical treatment. The strike of dozens of women was led by 47-year-old Iman Shanan, a Palestinian activist who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 1999 and who had more recently been referred to the Assuta Hospital in Tel Aviv to undergo an examination for the purpose of determining whether her remission had given way to a cancer recurrence.
She also heads the NGO Aid and Hope Program for Cancer Patient Care in Gaza. It was not that all such requests have been denied, since the fact is many patients seeking treatment outside Gaza are given permission to enter Israel for treatment at Israeli hospitals. Ms. Shanan had claimed she had made three separate requests for permission and all had been denied. On the other hand, Israeli officials had said she had sought permission to attend a medical conference; they had no record of any requests from her to attend hospital for her in-remission cancer.
Twenty-seven-year-old Majar Naizi, one of the demonstrators and a former breast cancer patient, had been referred to Assuta Hospital for the very same tests as Ms. Shanan. Ms. Naizi had been treated in 2014 and 2015 in East Jerusalem. Her latest request for an examination had been denied. "My condition is deteriorating and I have to understand how to proceed. I can’t take medication without understanding my condition, the doctors are thinking of giving me medicines without the examination because I can’t get a permit to have it, but it could cause me serious damage". she complained.
In defence of Israeli policy respecting the treatment of Gazans in Israel, the coordinator of government activities stated the the "civilian policy" underwritten by Israel has not changed. That hundreds of Gazans have been free by permission to enter Israel to receive medical treatment, and the numbers permitted to cross has grown year by year. And then there was an added explication of the reason that greater caution in giving permits had arisen, when a statement was released by the Shin Bet.
Israel's internal security agency stated that it "allows residents of the Gaza Strip to enter Israel for medical treatment in accordance with the policies determining the movement of people between the State of Israel and the Gaza Strip and in the absence of any security impediment. Of late, we have witnessed repeated attempted by terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, which take advantage of Israel's willingness to grant entry to some patients for humanitarian reasons, to carry out terror attacks in Israel."
"In this context, it is worth remembering that there have been a number of recent cases in which terror organization cynically took advantage of patients seeking medical treatment outside of Gaza, were given entry permits to Israel and in whose possessions we found utensils and money designed for use in terror attacks. Therefore, the requests that we receive from Gaza for entry permits into Israel are thoroughly vetted before any such permit is issued."
Bear in mind, that was January of 2016. Fast-forward to 2017. Now, a repeat has occurred. It was revealed on April 20 that two women from Gaza who had received permission to enter Israel from the Eretz crossing to seek medical treatment for one of the women suffering from cancer, replayed that tired old tune. At the crossing, security inspectors discovered the sisters in possession of explosives used in the production of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), which they speedily confiscated.
The explosives had been hidden in containers labelled 'medical materials'.The two women were detained for questioning, after the explosives were disposed of by police sappers.
What these women have done, in attempting to smuggle explosives in to Israel on behalf of Hamas, is to make future crossing permission more difficult for women in Gaza genuinely needing to be able to undergo examination for cancer and subsequent treatment in Israel. Yet the consequences of such actions don't appear to trouble too greatly those who engage in these enterprises.
Despite knowing that their actions, if successful in smuggling the explosives, could lead at one end, to the deaths of innocent civilians in Israel, and at the other end, loss of hope for women facing the rigours and uncertainty of fighting cancer being denied access to the help they desperately seek.