Physicians for Human Rights-Israel was founded 17 years ago, and ever since has been involved in the struggle for the human rights of the Palestinian people. Over the years the organization has struggled with partner associations in the occupied territories and with individual Palestinian citizens to obtain basic rights and medical services from the Israeli authorities for the Palestinian people. These rights and services were denied to the people because of the occupation and closure policies the Israeli authorities implemented. Not always was PHR-Israel successful in its struggle- various Israeli authorities interfered with the organizations attempts to change policies that violate human rights. However, the latest part of the struggle is being hampered by the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Since 13 December 2004 the Gaza Strip is under a heavy closure and the Rafah crossing is closed. A special agreement was reached between the PA and the Israeli authorities regarding pilgrims wishing to observe the Hajj- they were allowed to leave Gaza via Erez Crossing to Israel and then enter Egypt via the Egyptian Rafah Crossing.

However, due to the closure on the strip, and specifically the closing of the Rafah Crossing, many critically ill Palestinian patients remained trapped in Gaza and were unable to go to Egypt for treatment that is not available in the Gaza Strip. Earlier this week, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, on behalf of several Palestinian patients, appealed to the Israeli High Court, demanding that it solve the patients’ problem so that they would receive the care needed. An agreement was reached that all severely ill patients would be allowed to leave the Gaza Strip in the same way the Hajj pilgrims were allowed to leave. While this agreement is far from satisfactory, it at least allowed for basic humanitarian relief.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel is suprised and dismayed to discover that the Palestinian Authority is barring these patients from leaving the Gaza Strip for political reasons. PHR-Israel strongly protests using patients for political goals, and fighting political struggles at the expense of these people.

Physicians for Human Rights-Israel calls upon the Palestinian Authority to immediately change its policy and allow for these patients to leave the Gaza Strip so that they may receive the medical treatment they require. The struggle to end the occupation must be handled in a way that does not harm civilians, and especially the ill, in any manner. Physicians for Human Rights-Israel repeats at this point its opposition to the occupation and all policies which violate human rights.