Woman with breast cancer denied treatment by Israel

Patients needing treatment outside the Gaza Strip often miss hospital appointments because Israel refuses to issue travel permits.

Mohammed Salem

Nazira Iljirat’s life may be in Israel’s hands.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2022.

At the recommendation of doctors, she underwent surgery to remove a malignant tumor in Gaza last September.

She received chemotherapy after surgery and was advised to undergo radiation therapy.

There was a big problem arranging such a session. The necessary equipment is not available inside Gaza.

There she was referred to Augusta Victoria Hospital in occupied East Jerusalem.

The hospital gave her an appointment for May 3 of this year. She missed her appointment.

Israeli authorities did not respond to her request for travel permission. Her sister Yasmine asked for permission to accompany her, but Israeli authorities denied her sister’s request.

With the help of Gaza-based human rights group Al-Mezan, Najra reiterated her request to travel for an appointment on May 7 (the postponed date). The only response she received was that her request and her sister’s new request to accompany her were “under consideration.”

“Once again, I was unable to travel for treatment,” said Najira, 45, a mother of six.

She has now submitted her third request. Palestinian authorities have agreed to pay for her treatment, but she has yet to receive a response from Israel.

“Radiation is very important for preventing cancer recurrence,” she says. “Any delay would put my life in grave danger.”

“Waiting for Death”

The plight of Gaza’s medical patients made international headlines a few weeks ago.

When Israel carried out a major attack on Gaza earlier this month, the BBC and other news outlets reported that hundreds of people, mostly cancer patients, were prevented from traveling for emergency treatment.

Headlines briefly focused attention on the deadly consequences of the movement restrictions Israel is imposing on Palestinians. Such restrictions apply even if Israel does not expose Gaza to continuous airstrikes.

Most cases that prevent Israel from keeping patient appointments go unreported.

Aisha Al Nader was diagnosed with two types of cancer last year.

Mohammed Salem

Aisha Al Nader was diagnosed with breast cancer and lymphoma in April 2022.

The diagnosis came shortly after Aisha, now 41, learned that her attempts to conceive through fertility treatments had failed.

“All I ever wanted was to experience the joy of being a mother,” she said. “Everything changed in the blink of an eye. Now I feel like I’m waiting for death.”

Gaza-based doctors referred Aisha to the Istishali Arab Hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

But she failed to keep a promise set last July. Because Israel did not issue her her travel permit.

Her younger brother, Hussein, sought help from human rights groups.

A series of applications were then filed and litigation commenced. Israel will not be deterred.

In January, doctors confirmed that Aisha’s cancer had spread. Further testing was considered necessary to confirm the full extent of the cancer, but the necessary equipment was not available in Gaza.

She was given a new appointment in Ramallah in late February, but Israel refused to issue a travel permit.

“My sister is slowly dying because of the blockade of Gaza,” Hussein said. “And the arbitrary decision of the Israeli authorities.”

‘Barely alive’

A new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) notes that there has been considerable variability in post-approval rates for travel permit applications for Gaza patients over the past 15 years. The highest approval rating (94 percent) was recorded in 2012, and the lowest approval rating (54 percent) was recorded in 2017.

A WHO study found that from 2019 to 2021, only 65% ​​of travel permits for patients from Gaza were issued in time to keep hospital appointments.

Saadia Albalim is very concerned about the future of her children.

Mohammed Salem

In April 2021, doctors determined that Saadia Albarim needed treatment outside of Gaza for her thyroid cancer. She was referred to Al Ahly Hospital in Hebron, West Bank city.

Israel denied four of her travel permit applications and eventually granted one.

This permit did not guarantee a smooth trip. When she arrived at the military checkpoint Erez, which separates Gaza from Israel, she was interrogated by Israeli soldiers for six hours.

“I almost stopped breathing during that time,” said the 51-year-old man.

Her condition deteriorated in 2022. She received her travel clearance last June after being referred to Hebron for further treatment.

She requires further treatment and was recently referred to Al-Macassed Hospital in East Jerusalem.

So far this year, she has applied for three travel permits. All three have been denied.

“I’m barely alive,” she said.

A widow and mother of six, Saadia is very concerned about the future of her children.

“Saleha, my youngest son is 12,” she said. “He’s afraid of losing me, just like he lost his father when he was young.”

Asir Musa is a journalist based in Gaza.


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