On Thursday morning, 18 June 2020, Omar Ahmed Yaghi, an eight-month-old cardiac patient, passed away at Al-Rantisi Specialized Hospital in Gaza City. His health had deteriorated following a missed appointment at Tel HaShomer Hospital in Israel, after his family was unable to secure an Erez crossing permit in order to make the one-hour drive.
Omar had a congenital heart disease and underwent a number of surgeries outside Gaza, in Tel HaShomer Hospital, since his birth. His uncle, Mohammed, 32, told Al Mezan that Omar had recently missed an appointment for further treatment at Tel HaShomer Hospital on 24 May 2020 as his family had no access to an exit permit to leave Gaza through Erez crossing. Subsequently, another hospital appointment was scheduled for 21 June 2020. However, having been unable to recommence his scheduled treatment outside Gaza, Omar’s condition deteriorated and he was admitted to the intensive care unit at Al-Rantisi Hospital in Gaza, where he passed away on Thursday, 18 June 2020.
Al Mezan’s documentation shows that since the beginning of 2020, three patients, including one child, have died after they could not secure the requisite Israeli-issued permits to leave Gaza for medical care. The healthcare system in Gaza faces severe shortages of drugs, medical supplies, and equipment, pushing thousands of patients with life-threatening conditions to seek treatment outside of Gaza through an onerous, complex, and opaque permit process imposed by the Israeli authorities, which severely deprives Palestinians of their right to health, and in the most serious cases of their right to life.
The permit system is an arbitrary and unnecessary measure that unlawfully preconditions urgent and lifesaving care for thousands of people. Following the Palestinian Authority’s 19 May 2020 cessation of coordination with Israel, which hampered the permit submission procedure, it is incumbent upon the Israeli occupying authorities to provide a safe, expeditious alternative for access to care.
Al Mezan deeply regrets the compounded suffering of patients in Gaza and stresses that Israel’s sweeping restrictions on the movement of persons in and out of the Gaza Strip are in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention and international human rights law. The restrictions on patients are a facet of these illegal closure measures, which have undermined all aspects of life in Gaza for two million Palestinians and pushed the healthcare system to the brink of collapse over the course of 13 years.
In this context, Al Mezan calls for a prompt and effective investigation into the death of Palestinian infant Omar Yaghi, and reaffirms that Israel, as the occupying power, is legally obligated to ensure timely access to life-saving medical treatment for persons under its effective control. Al Mezan also urges the international community to take necessary steps to protect the rights of Gaza’s patients, including by pressuring Israel to comply with its legal obligations as an occupying power and by seeking an end to the illegal closure.