Activists: PA Preventing Gaza Sick From Getting Treatment in Israel

YERUSHALAYIM -
A barbed wire fence on Zikim beach, near the border with the northern Gaza Strip. (Corinna Kern/Flash90)

The latest tactic being used by Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas against Hamas is to prevent residents of Gaza from getting medical assistance in Israel, human rights activists charged. Speaking to Haaretz, sources in the international Doctors Without Borders group said that so far this year, only several hundred requests by Gaza residents for treatment in Israel had been approved, whereas in 2016, some 2,000 such requests were granted each month — with demand greater than ever.

In order for a Gaza resident to be treated in an Israeli hospital, a request must be made through the PA’s Health Ministry in Ramallah, and the PA must guarantee payment. Although Gaza has its own health office, Israel — and the PA — do not recognize the legitimacy of the Hamas government, so all official requests must be made via Ramallah, as per agreements between Israel and the PA. According to the Doctors Without Borders activists, the PA is using the permits as a weapon in its ongoing fight with Hamas.

The move is one of several steps the PA has taken in recent months against Gaza, with a cut in electricity for Gaza having the biggest impact, the activists said. Israel has cut power flows to Gaza by about 6 percent, at the behest of the PA, which said it would no longer pay for Gaza electricity. PA officials declared earlier this month that they were tired of sharing the blame for Hamas’ terror activities, as the humanitarian aid transferred to Gaza — including money to pay for basic services — is used to build terror tunnels and pay terrorists.

Channel Two quoted PA officials as saying the ongoing terror activities of Hamas is damaging their standing with the new administration in Washington, and that they would no longer pay for those activities. The IDF recommended going along with the plan in order to strengthen the position of PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in his dispute with Hamas.

The U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator in the Palestinian territories, Robert Piper, said that further electricity cuts would further damage the living conditions of Gazans. “A further increase in the length of blackouts is likely to lead to a total collapse of basic services, including critical functions in the health, water and sanitation sectors,” Piper said in a statement. “The people in Gaza should not be held hostage to this longstanding internal Palestinian dispute,” he added.