Time: 1pm (+2 GMT)
The Israeli authorities at Erez crossing arrested Palestinian patient companion, Karam Tantawi, 51, at Erez crossing. The arrest occurred within the context of movement restriction that form the basis of Israel’s closure policy regarding the Gaza Strip. Tantawi was accompanying his wife on her journey back to Gaza from cancer treatment at Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. The tight restrictions, that include permit rejections that prevent patients from traveling for medical care, make Palestinian patients one of the most vulnerable groups in Gaza, as they often rely on exit from the territory for care.
On Tuesday, 23 April 2019, Israeli forces at Erez crossing detained Tantawi, a retired employee of the the Palestinian Authority, as he was accompanying his wife, Safaa Tantawi, 47, on her way back to Gaza. Safaa had received treatment at Augusta Victoria (Al Makassed) Hospital in Jerusalem. She shared the following account of Karam’s detention:
“At 11:30am on Tuesday, 23 April 2019, I was coming back to Gaza from the Augusta Victoria Hospital where I received cancer treatment, and I was accompanied by my husband for my travels. At Erez Crossing, we waited to receive permission to cross into Gaza, but Israeli forces told me to go back alone. I refused to do so in the beginning, and I waited until 6pm. The Palestinian Civil Liaison Office then informed me that my husband had been detained, so I had to cross into Gaza on my own.”
Al Mezan Center for Human Rights condemns the detention of Tantawi and the policies and practices by the Israeli authorities that lead to restricted access to healthcare and ultimately the denial of the right to health. The physical and psychological pain that patients and their relatives endure while attempting to access healthcare is a form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In the gravest cases, the Israeli authorities violate the right to life of the patient by implementing restrictions that prevent them from receiving life-saving care that is a mere hour’s drive. Al Mezan is also concerned by the authorities’ use of arbitrary arrest and detention and notes that in many cases the patient or patient companion is arrested after having cleared Israeli security and received the crossing permit.
Al Mezan calls on the international community to ensure that international humanitarian and human rights law are respected by the occupying power and that the Israeli restrictions on the rights of patients and their companions are removed.